More than 40 members of the publishing industry yesterday launched the Taiwan Freedom of Publication Front ahead of a planned Labor Day rally.
The group wants to make its voices heard by what they called the “long-idle” Ministry of Culture.
It follows an open letter to Minister of Culture Lung Ying-tai (龍應台) by cultural industry representatives on April 9, which the group says was not satisfactorily answered.
The letter urged Lung to acknowledge the inseparable connections between publishers, printing houses and distributors, and to set up a uniform pricing mechanism for books that would help prevent independent bookstores and small publishing houses from being driven out of business.
As of yesterday, the letter had received about 1,540 individual and 60 organizational endorsements.
The new group issued three more demands. First, it demanded the government make public the list of industry representatives invited to participate in cultural cross-strait negotiations, as well as detailed reports on the negotiation process and the pact’s potential impacts. It also demanded the government accept scrutiny from the industry before agreements are signed.
Second, the group called for impact assessments and details of the measures the government plans to adopt to protect Taiwanese cultural workers.
Third, it called for a study on the labor environment for the cultural industry and the roll-out of policies conducive to the promotion of reading in the country.
The group also urged people from the publishing, art, culture and movie industries to support their cause by joining its May 1 rally.
“It is regrettable that Lung, as the first culture minister, has failed to build a solid base for the ministry or establish any system to facilitate the development of the cultural industry,” the group said.
The group said the ministry must have agreed without question to anything in the controversial cross-strait service trade agreement, because otherwise the publishing industry — which was not even included in the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement early harvest list — would not have been included in the trade agreement.
Novelist Huang Chong-kai (黃崇凱) said it was important for the ministry to hold public hearings and fulfill the group’s demands.
“Lung announced [on Wednesday] after receiving the open letter that the ministry plans to hold three forums to listen to the opinions of cultural industry representatives. However, any conclusions reached at such meetings would not be legally binding unless they are initiated by elected representatives,” Huang said.