Wed, Dec 08, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Interest groups say ratings system will violate free speech

By Cody Yiu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Activists yesterday urged the Government Information Office (GIO) to put on hold the new Measures Governing the Rating Systems of Publications and Pre-recorded Video Programs (出版品及錄影節目帶分級辦法) over fears they will encroach on freedom of speech.

"This is an obscure ratings system, the goal of which we believe is to censor publications. We hope the GIO will delay enforcement of this regulation until public hearings, which include teenagers, have been held," said Wu Ming-hsuan (吳銘軒), a spokesperson for Reset, an online commentary magazine.

The Anti-Censorship Alliance said the new measures violate the rights of adult and teenage readers, writers, publishers, distributors, bookstores and book rental stores.

The regulation requires publishers or stores to label restricted publications.

"Since the regulation came into effect [on Dec. 1], what has been happening is that publishers and book rental stores rate all publications that touch upon the topic of homosexuality "R," no matter what the precise contents might be," said Wu Hsu-liang (巫緒樑), a spokesperson for gay rights support group Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline.

Wu said that although not required by the regulation to do so, publishers and book rental stores were doing this out of concern that they would be fined.

Wu Ming-hsuan said that keeping publications featuring sexually-themed material away from teenagers would delay their understanding of sexuality.

"I think the age of 18 is a little late for an individual to be enlightened about sexuality and sexual desire," he said.

The alliance, along with academics and shopowners, will present a petition at the GIO tomorrow to highlight its cause.

"If this ratings system is to be strictly enforced, then popular comic books such as Doraemon and Crayon Shinchan ought to be rated `R' too," Wu said.

Violators are subjected to heavy fines of NT$100,000 to NT$500,000, according to the Children and Juveniles Welfare Law (兒童及少年福利法). Serious offenders can also have their publications suspended for a month to one year.

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