The Ministry of Health and Welfare yesterday announced that it had removed Article 13 of the Enforcement Rules for the Suicide Prevention Act (自殺防治法施行細則), promulgated on Aug. 6, after complaints that it restricted journalistic freedom.
The article said that the media could not place news of suicides on front pages, use sensational headlines, use photographs of suicides or include a hyperlink to a social media platform carrying such images. It also prohibited repeated reporting of suicides. Those who contravened the rules faced a fine of up to NT$1 million (US$33,893).
Media unions protested the regulations, saying they suppressed press freedom.
Department of Mental and Oral Health Director Chen Li-chung (諶立中) yesterday said that the ministry has considered the unions’ suggestions and agreed that explicitly regulating the media using its enforcement rules could be seen as a restriction of press freedom.
The ministry’s regulations on the matter of press coverage of suicides would observe the parent law, the Suicide Prevention Act (自殺防治法), Chen said.
The act went into effect on June 19 last year.
Article 16 of the act states that adverts, publications, broadcasts, television, the Internet or other media sources cannot report on information teaching, encouraging or tempting others to commit suicide; cannot describe in detail the methods and causes of a suicide case; cannot present information in print, sound, pictures or video that would tempt a person to commit suicide; cannot carry adverts of sale for toxic or lethal substances or tools; and cannot report on any other situations, as stipulated by the central government, that would be deemed to encourage the act of committing suicide, Chen said.
Article 17 of the act states that perpetrators can be fined NT$100,000 to NT$1 million, and may be fined repeatedly if they do not remove the offending item.
Chen said that the ministry hoped that the media would observe the law and exercise self-restraint.
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