Fri, Dec 25, 2009 - Page 4 News List

Cabinet moves to protect children from media

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Cabinet yesterday approved an amendment to the Children and Juveniles’ Welfare Act (兒童及少年福利法) to prohibit contents deemed harmful to the physical and mental health of youngsters from being published in newspapers or on Web sites.

Should the amendment pass the legislature, newspapers will be put under content examination by the government for the first time since the Publication Act (出版法) — which together with other laws constituted the censorship regime under the Martial Law era — was abolished in 1999.

Under the proposed amendment, newspapers would be banned from publishing stories, graphics, or photos of crime, violence, pornography, sexual misdemeanors, suicide or rape in a way that gives blow-by-blow details.

The governments in the area where an offending newspaper was registered could fine the publication between NT$100,000 and NT$500,000 for violations.

The proposal would require the National Communication Commission to establish rules by which Internet platform provider (IPP) services such as Yahoo, Google, and YouTube would have to abide, including steps to protect Internet users under the age of 18 from contents considered illegal under the proposed act.

IPP services that fail to follow the requirements could be fined between NT$60,000 and NT$300,000, the proposal states.

The current law merely demands producers of Internet contents meet general rating guidelines to specify contents not suitable for viewers under the age of 18.

Last month, the Taipei City Government used the Act to fine Next Media for the Apple Daily’s “News-in-Motion” feature following a public outcry against the content of the online service.

The incident led to debates on media regulations and the impact on press freedom.

Minister Without Portfolio James Hsueh (薛承泰) yesterday denied that the Cabinet’s bid to revise the law was targeted at the Apple Daily, saying the Act, which hasn’t been significantly reviewed for 20 years, had failed to keep pace with changes in society.

Chien Hui-jiuan (簡慧娟), director of the Ministry of the Interior’s Child Welfare Bureau, downplayed concern over threats to freedom of the press.

He said the government’s intention was to encourage the media to cover news events from angles that could benefit children and juveniles.

“There must be a point of balance between freedom of the press and the best benefit for children and juveniles,” Chien said, adding that finding the right balance could only be determined on a case-by-case basis.

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