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Sat, May 27, 2000 - Page 2 News List

Regulating porn a pressing issue

TOO EASY ACCESS One lawmaker held a public forum yesterday at the Legislative Yuan to demonstrate just how easy it is for children to purchase adult material

By Liu Shao-hua  /  STAFF REPORTER

The abolishment of the Publication Law last year was considered a great leap forward for freedom of speech in Taiwan, but perhaps not surprisingly, one area that appears to have benefited is pornography.

At the Legislative Yuan yesterday, lawmaker Tseng Tsai Mei-tso (曾蔡美佐) displayed dozens of pornographic comics, magazines and nude photo albums to highlight the need for establishing a rating system for such material.

"Kids are reading this pornography. These books are disgusting, but are available everywhere," she said.

Tseng asked the participants at the public hearing to have a look at the comic books and magazines to see just what sort of images are readily available. Pointing at pictures in one of the comic books that was particularly graphic, she asked officials: "Isn't this obscene? Isn't this a violation of the law?"

Tseng said that since the Publication Law was annulled last January, there has been no regulations in place to control pornography and that publishers were clearly aware of this fact.

Without the law, screening the content of books and periodicals that may have adult content has been left to legal authorities, such as prosecutors.

Tseng asked the government to establish a rating system to oversee the content of these kinds of publications.

Previously, under the Publication Law, the Government Information Office (GIO) had the authority to monitor the content of published material.

At that time, around 1,600,000 publications and 200,000 video tapes were confiscated each year.

"Since the abolition of the law, there has been no legal framework which we can use to make spot checks at shops that may be selling pornography," said officials from the GIO.

Although there are still laws on the books that stipulate punishment for dealing in pornography, they are rarely used.

"It's not always easy to say exactly what is pornographic and what is not," said prosecutor Meng Yu-mei (孟玉玫).

Meng said that the definition of what is considered pornographic has changed over time and often depends on the judgment of judges trying such cases.

"There is no formalized standard for this assessment," she said.

But observers said that Meng's comments were just an excuse for government inaction on the issue.

Yu Ying-fu (尤英夫), a lawyer for the Consumers' Foundation, suggested the Taiwan learn from Australia and adopt a rating system. He said the government should invite social groups, publishers and legal experts to make recommendations on how to construct regulations to protect children and regulate the sale of adult material.

Some participants in the forum said that even if there was a rating system, policing the thousands of video rental shops around the island would be an impossible task. They said guidelines must apply to those publishing the materials and be enforced before they are distributed.

According to the GIO, the first bookstore to adopt a rating system was opened in Chiayi City in January. Books which are off-limits to minors are marked and placed in a special corner of the shop.

GIO officials said some chain bookstores and comic rental shops also plan to adopt the system soon and the officials appealed to more bookstores to join in the movement.

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