Activists yesterday sought legal remedy over the controversial high-school curriculum guideline adjustments to defend “the people’s right to know” against the Ministry of Education’s refusal to reveal its decisionmaking process.
The public’s right to know must be guaranteed, Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR) secretary-general Tsai Chi-hsun (蔡季勳) said.
“It’s a jihad to demand disclosure of government information,” Tsai added.
The TAHR, Taiwan Democracy Watch and other groups yesterday filed an administrative appeal with the Ministry of Education after it rejected their request that all information related to its decision to revise the high-school curriculum on Chinese literature and social sciences be made available to the public.
The ministry promulgated the new curriculum guidelines on Feb. 10, in defiance of widespread concerns over what opponents said was an opaque decisionmaking process involving no professionals with a background in Taiwanese history and a shift to a more China-oriented historical perspective.
According to Article 6 of the Freedom of Government Information Act (政府資訊公開法), government agencies are required to disclose relevant information on administrative measures related to people’s rights and interests in a timely manner, the TAHR said in a letter to the ministry, requesting that it follow the law.
Yet the ministry turned down the request, saying that the information was among several categories of material restricted from disclosure under Article 18 of the Freedom of Government Information Law, she said.
Tsai said the ministry cited Paragraph 3 of the article because it considered the requested information as “drafts for internal use or other preparatory works conducted before the government makes a decision.”
Yet given that the new curriculum was already promulgated, the requested information can no longer be counted as for internal use or for other preparatory work, she said.
Tsai said that the move to seek legal remedy was also aimed at deterring government agencies from abusing the Freedom of Government Information Law.
The law was enacted to bring transparency to government operations and broaden public participation in democratic processes, Tsai said, adding that the spirit enshrined in the law should be followed.
The ministry yesterday reiterated its position that it was bound by Paragraph 3 of Article 18 of the act not to agree to the request.
The views of people with whom the government consults for policymaking should not be made public to ensure that those individuals can speak freely, the ministry said, citing Paragraph 2 of the article and ruling No. 579 handed down by the Supreme Court in 2010.
After the ministry receives the appeal, the case will be reviewed by the Petition and Appeal Commission under the ministry to examine the complaint.
Tsai said that they will bring the case before an administrative court if the ministry’s Petition and Appeal Committee rejects the appeal.