“I said [in my Facebook post] that I personally witnessed a Filipino worker being refused service by a restaurant, but in fact, I merely heard it from another customer at the restaurant while waiting in line to get my lunch,” she said. “I want to stress that I did not make up the story, but I would like to apologize to the public for telling a lie that triggered such an uproar.”
Police yesterday charged Tung and Cheng with violating the Social Order Maintenance Act (社會秩序維護法), which prohibits the spreading of rumors that cause a public disturbance.
According to the act, if convicted, the two could face a maximum detention of three days or a maximum fine of NT$30,000.
Their cases have been sent to the Taipei District Court for expedited trials.
Meanwhile, rights activists yesterday criticized the government for its handling of the incidents.
“The government has overreacted by employing the state apparatus to investigate whether two citizens had personally witnessed incidents posted on their private Facebook pages, especially since no person or establishment was named in either story,” said Chiu I-ling (邱伊翎), executive secretary of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights. “It is equally ridiculous that the two have been charged with violating the Social Order Maintenance Act, which is already legislation left over from a time when the nation was under authoritarian rule.”
Chu Wei-li (朱維立), the executive director of the National Federation of Independent Trade Unions, said that Cheng’s employer may have violated the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) by dismissing him because of a non-work-related message he posted on a personal Web page.
In other developments, lawmakers on the legislature’s Transportation Committee passed a resolution asking the National Communications Commission (NCC) to investigate if the media had violated any regulations by spreading false news reports on the Internet.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津) said the false stories had damaged the image of Taiwanese since they had been spread internationally through the newspaper’s Internet edition, giving people in other countries the impression that Taiwan was inhumane, she said.
Asked if the commision could can regulate the online editions of newspapers and magazines, NCC Chairman Howard Shyr (石世豪) said electronic editions “are a continuation of print media.”
He thanked writer Giddens Ko (柯景騰), also known as Jiu Ba-dao (九把刀), for volunteering to validate the authenticity of the reports.
“I would like to thank the online community for wielding its positive influence in this occasion and the commission is also grateful that a writer [Jiubadao] and other netizens were willing to spend their free time investigating the matter. This is an example of why the independent operation of civic society should always respected,” he said.
However, Yeh said Shyr was shirking his responsibilities and urged the commission to take action to regulate online media outlets.
Additional reporting by Shelley Shan and Rich Chang