Thu, Jan 16, 2020 - Page 2 News List

Association slams ban on front page suicide reports

CURTAILS FREEDOMS?The Suicide Prevention Act has provisions on regulating media reporting that could ‘teach, cause or entice people to committing suicide’

By Liu Li-jen and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

National daily newspapers hang on a rack in an office in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Liu Li-jen, Taipei Times

The Taipei Newspapers Association yesterday decried draft enforcement rules to the Suicide Prevention Act (自殺防治法) that prohibits newspapers from printing stories about suicide on the front page, saying that the rule has overstepped the act’s jurisdiction and risks curtailing freedom of the press.

The act, passed in May last year and promulgated in June, includes provisions on regulating media regarding reporting that could “teach, cause or entice people to committing suicide.”

The association stated that, despite the good intention, items No. 6 and 8 of Article 13, which covers reporting on suicides, could contradict the act’s purpose.

Item No. 6 states that the media should not “post/print pictures, illustrations or videos of suicides or pass/show media Web site links to content about suicides,” while item No. 8 states that such stories “should not be used for front-page material, listed on Web site homepages or be repetitively reported on.”

For example, media organizations could face a fine if it includes photographs on the deaths of foreign officials, domestic or foreign celebrities, news flash incidents, social movements, victims of terrorist attacks or deaths by suicide on the front page or home page, the association said.

Follow-up news stories on incidents could also be subject to fines, the association added.

The ministry should include a clause stating: “Except social welfare, or important domestic or foreign news,” it said.

The association expressed support for self-regulation by the media, saying that members of the media should follow the guiding principles jointly recommended by the Taiwanese Society of Suicidology and the Taiwanese Suicide Prevention Center when reporting suicides.

It is not appropriate to impose regulations on the media that tell them what news stories should go on what pages, as media organizations have the right to determine how to present a story and what page to put it on based on the nature of the news event, it said.

The association said that it ask the ministry to consult with experts and review the draft with care.

Department of Mental and Oral Health Director Chen Li-chung (諶立中) told a news conference yesterday morning that the ministry had consulted with suicide prevention experts, but not the media.

A source in the news industry said that it was regrettable that the ministry did not consult with the media or understand how it operates when drafting the enforcement rules.

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