Taiwan guarantees freedom of speech, but law enforcement agencies have to act when people maliciously and knowingly spread rumors or false information, causing harm or defaming others, Deputy Minister of Justice Chen Ming-tang (陳明堂) said yesterday.
“The government is fully committed to protecting freedom of speech, but people cannot abuse such freedoms to spread rumors and cause social disturbance,” Chen told a rare Sunday media briefing in Taipei.
The public was owed an explanation after recent rumors and unsubstantiated news reports claimed that police and judicial investigators had targeted three people for questioning and investigation because of their political affiliation, he said.
“The Criminal Investigation Bureau and prosecutors carried out the investigation because litigation or judicial complaints had been filed in all three cases,” Chen said.
One case involved a 65-year-old woman who had shared a video of a legislator asking questions about government policies in the legislature, he said.
However, the woman was investigated for allegedly spreading the fabrication that “the government had depleted the finances of agriculture and fishery sectors by giving out NT$700 billion [US$23.25 billion] in loans to Southeast Asian countries” when in fact there was no evidence of such an undertaking, Chen said.
“The Agricultural Bank of Taiwan had filed a lawsuit against the woman and 70 others for circulating this fabricated information, and they faced charges for breaching the Agricultural Finance Act (農業金融法). It had nothing to do with sharing of the video clip online,” he said.
Another case involved a woman who claimed to have been persecuted after being questioned by police officers, he said.
The Central Election Commission (CEC) filed a judicial complaint against the woman for causing a social disturbance by posting on Facebook that the commission had replaced its officials and workers with people linked to the pan-green camp, he said.
The ministry also cited the legal basis of illegal actions and punishment for spreading false information, including Article 313 of the Criminal Code, which stipulates that “a person who injures the credit of another by circulating rumors or by fraudulent means shall be sentenced to imprisonment at under two years,” and Article 46-1 of the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation (食品安全衛生管理法), which states “a person who disseminates a rumor or incorrect information concerning food safety and thus causes damage to the public or others shall be punished with imprisonment at under three years.”
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