Fri, Dec 26, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Minister of Justice says media, public ‘abuse’ free speech

By Shih Hsiao-kuang and Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporters

Minister of Justice Luo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪) yesterday accused Taiwanese media and political pundits of rampant abuse of the freedom of speech and making unsubstantiated accusations, amid widely reported allegations that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his campaign team received an off-the-books political donation from Ting Hsin International Group (頂新集團).

Luo made the remarks during a project report on democratic rule of law and freedom of speech in a monthly meeting at the Presidential Office yesterday morning.

“Free speech is the core value of democracy. Since people are in control in a democratic country, it is the government’s utmost responsibility to safeguard the people’s rights,” Luo said.

However, the media have shown no restraint in their reporting and have fabricated news stories, Luo said, before going on to accuse social activists of taking increasingly aggressive approaches aimed at generating media attention and accused political pundits of taking advantage of their positions to make false accusations.

Luo’s rhetoric was perceived by some as a defense of Ma against media personality Clara Chou (周玉蔻), who alleged earlier this month that Ma had received a secret donation from Ting Hsin — which has been embroiled in several food safety scandals — through a confidant, believing it to be within the legal boundaries for campaign fundraising.

Chou’s allegations led to a decision by the Special Investigation Division of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office yesterday to launch a probe into the matter.

Luo also said that society is divided as to how far the boundaries of free speech should be stretched, that online bullying has become rampant due to abuse of the freedom of speech on the Internet and that the current Communication Security and Surveillance Act (通訊保障及監察法) has been an impediment in investigations into online defamation cases.

“The public’s common lack of democratic values poses a threat to our democratic society... People’s abuse of free speech often goes beyond the boundary of the law and against the true meaning of the constitutional protection of free speech,” Luo said.

“If Internet speech continues to be out of control, the Internet arena could become a haven for lawbreakers,” she added.

On the sidelines of the meeting, Luo said that relevant government agencies are considering amending the Communication Security and Surveillance Act to address the problem of online defamation and inappropriate comments.

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