Media associations yesterday spoke out strongly against a draft personal data protection act (個人資料保護法), which passed its second reading at the Legislative Yuan on Tuesday, saying it would severely jeopardize freedom of the press.
May Chen (陳依玫), chairwoman of the self-disciplinary committee at the Satellite Television Broadcasting Association, said the fact that the draft act requires reporters to secure a person’s approval before they can publish a story on that person is a sign of a “backtracking democracy.”
“I do not agree with a culture that encourages people to break news to media. And yet, the conduct of public figures, to a certain extent, can be and must be examined by the public,” Chen said.
As an example, Chen said that the character of a political candidate could be called into question if he poses as a loving husband when in fact his wife is a victim of domestic violence.
“The act would greatly restrict freedom of the press and of speech, which is even stricter than the regulations executed during the Martial Law era,” she said, adding that the legislative process surrounding the bill was severely flawed.
Meanwhile, the National Communications Commission (NCC) said yesterday it would discuss the serious consequences of a third passage of the draft act with the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and the Government Information Office.
The Legislative Yuan Web site says that bills that have completed a second reading shall undergo a third reading. During the third reading stage, however, revisions other than the rephrasing of bills are not permitted, unless bills are found to be self-contradictory, unconstitutional or in conflict with other laws.
Jason Ho (何吉森), director of the NCC’s communication content department, said Article 9 in the draft act proposed by the MOJ originally exempted the media from following the regulations.
“While the parties negotiated the bill, some legislators wanted to use this article to regulate comments by political pundits,” Ho said. “However, the article was changed in a way that applies to the media in general.”
“Suppose a journalist wants to write about a government official who is allegedly involved in an embezzlement scandal. The journalist would have to ask the official’s permission before he can publish the story. This goes against the principle of press freedom,” Ho said.
Ho said the MOJ had suggested that the NCC amend the Broadcasting and Television Act (廣播電視法) as a remedial measure to protect freedom of the press, but Ho said that was unlikely to happen.
The Broadcasting and Television Act regulates radio and TV services and does not regulate print media. Print media are not regulated by any law since the nation annulled the Publishing Act (出版法) in 1999.