Mon, Dec 24, 2012 - Page 11 News List

Spreading eschatological rumors can land you two years in jail
散布末日謠言 可重囚兩年

Indigenous people pray during a Maya ceremony in Chimaltenango, Guatemala, in August this year. The Mayan calendar marks the end of a cycle on Dec. 21, 2012, sparking a controversy over whether this was the announcement of the end of the world or the change of an era.
瓜地馬拉奇馬爾特南戈當地土著,今年八月於馬雅族儀式祈禱。馬雅曆法中預言二0一二年十二月二十一日為一個循環的結束,引起這是預言世界末日還是時代變遷的爭論。

Photo: EPA
照片:歐新社

Is it really illegal to spread rumors about the end of the world? Lawyer Chen Ching-wei says that if you say things in public to frighten people and say it in a way that makes people fear for their lives, then yes, you are committing the crime of terrifying the public. If you use an end-of-the-world scenerio as an excuse to encourage people to break laws or government policies, you could be charged with incitement. According to the Criminal Code, “A person who endangers public safety by putting the public in fear of injury to life, body, or property shall be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than two years.”

Chen says that aside from the two punishments mentioned above, you could also be fined. According to the Social Order Maintenance Act, a person spreading socially disruptive rumors can be fined as much as NT$30,000, while the Meteorological Act, on the other hand, stipulates that “issuing a seismological forecast(s), hazardous weather forecast(s), or warning(s) of meteorological, seismological, or marine meteorological phenomena” without proper authorization can be fined between NT$5,000 and NT$50,000.

Chen says that if you use the mass media or a public space to talk with certainty about the end of the world, and cause people to feel afraid and affect social order, you could be convicted of terrifying the public and be sentenced to imprisonment for up to two years. Even if you are simply standing around participating in the raucous, you could be charged as an accomplice.

Publicly inciting an unspecified number of people to commit a crime, break the law or defy government regulations, are all considered to be violations of incitement and are punishable by up to two years in prison, even if no one actually commits a crime based on what you said. A violation is committed as soon as words of incitement are made available to the public.

TODAY’S WORDS 今日單字

1. terrify v.

恐嚇 (kong3 he4)

例: The children were terrified by the soldier’s war stories.

(小朋友被軍人的戰爭故事嚇到了。)

2. endanger v.

危及 (wei2 ji2)

例: Overdevelopment could endanger wildlife in the area.

(過度開發可能會危及這個地區的野生生物。)

3. cargo n.

貨物 (huo4 wu4)

例: The world’s largest cargo ship docked in Hamburg this month.

(全球最大的貨船這個月在漢堡停靠。)


In Nantou County’s Puli Township last year, Wang Chao-hung, known as “Teacher Wang,” stirred up a media frenzy after he “predicted” a giant quake and tsunami would hit Taiwan on May 11, urging people to move into makeshift shelters converted from cargo containers. He was convicted by a district court in Nantou County of spreading socially disruptive rumors and fined NT$40,000.

(Liberty Times, Translated by Kyle Jeffcoat)

散布世界末日謠言,犯不犯法?律師陳敬暐指出,散布世界末日謠言,若公然以危言聳聽的言論,使人信以為真而心生畏懼,可能觸犯刑法「恐嚇公眾」罪,若以世界末日為由鼓動民眾去做違法的事或抗拒政府法令,也將觸犯「煽惑他人犯罪」罪,兩項罪名最重都可判處兩年有期徒刑。

陳敬暐說,除了這兩項刑責,也可能會被罰錢。因為依社會秩序維護法規定「散布謠言,足以影響公共之安寧」,可罰三萬元以下罰鍰;氣象法也有行政罰,「擅自發布地震、災害性天氣之預報或氣象、地震或海象警報者」可處五千元至五萬元罰鍰。

律師解釋,若在公眾媒體或場合上,散布言之鑿鑿的末日言論,公眾當中若「有人」心生畏懼,影響公共秩序,就可能涉及刑法「恐嚇公眾」罪,可處兩年以下有期徒刑;若是在一旁起鬨鼓譟,也有可能成為共犯。

若在媒體、網路上公然煽惑不特定多數人犯罪、違背法令、抗拒合法命令,也會觸犯「煽惑他人犯罪」罪,最重也可判刑兩年,且即使沒人真的照他說的去犯罪,這種公開煽惑的言論一出,就已構成此罪。

去年南投埔里「王老師」王超宏宣稱「五一一末日」預言,由於說法使人信以為真,造成埔里避難貨櫃屋熱賣的奇景,南投地方法院是以社維法合併裁罰四萬元。

(自由時報記者張文川)

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