Unjust Deadline - Postwar Journalists

Freedom of Speech vs. Freedom of the Press

Freedom of speech is a basic human right. Article 19 of the“Universal Declaration of Human Rights” explicitly guarantees the right to free speech in recognition of its cornerstone importance. Furthermore, freedom of the press is an institutional basic right that ensures the media’s ability to fully perform their role of government supervision. Allowing the media to operate independently and resist outside interference, especially from the government, is vital to the proper functioning of a democracy.

Since 2017, to commemorate every April 7th "Freedom of Speech Day", the National Human Rights Museum has been holding two special exhibitions: “100% Freedom of Speech: Special Exhibition on Political Magazines and Opposition Movements” and “The Days of Silence”.

In 2019, these events will focus on the theme of “Free Press”, presenting the lives of journalists who were subjected to censorship and persecution during the authoritarian era. When deprived of freedom of speech and personal freedom, journalists can’t be expected to properly supervise the government, prevent an abuse of power, and perform their institutional role.

30 years after the end of Mr. Cheng Nan-jung’s struggle to obtain the right for complete freedom of speech, we hope that these exhibitions will help a larger number of Taiwanese people to understand the importance of protecting the freedom of press, as well as to appreciate the value of free speech.

Unjust Deadline - Postwar Journalists

In postwar Taiwan, the Kuomintang government was unreservedly and harshly criticized by the media, which published in-depth reports about countless incidents of embezzlement and corruption.

In 1947, when the 228 Incident broke out, the Kuomintang government started massacring its dissidents; many media elites were arrested and tortured, while many newspapers and radio stations got banned. From then on, Taiwan’s interllectuals went silent out of fear, and distanced themselves from public affairs and the publishing world. Taiwan’s journalism suffered a huge setback.

Without receiving a proper trial, victims of the 228 Incident were arrested, secretly sentenced, and publicly executed by firing squad. Many of the journalists who suffered during the years of the White Terrors held liberal views. During the martial law era, if accused of offending the Chiang Kai-shek's authoritarian rule, people could be convicted at any time for reasons such as “insulting the head of state”, “instigating anti-government sentiments among the people”, “taking part in subversive activities”, “reading banned materials”, and so on.

Since the 228 Incident, throughout all the White Terror period, journalists could be clamped down on, denied to express dissident views, and even threatened with prosecution. Looking back at the past can help us better appreciate the freedom of speech and press we enjoy today. Furthermore, the greatest tribute should be paid to those older generations who sacrificed their lives for Taiwan’s free press.

Timeline: Postwar Freedom of Speech

According to "Outline of Taiwan Take-Over Plan ", Japanese was forbidden to use in all official documents, textbooks and newspapers." All Japanese versions of news and magazines were strictly removed after October 25.

At February 28 incident, many Taiwanese elites and journalists were arrested. 18 media outlets were suspended.
July 4, "National Mobilization Law" was announced which authorized the Government full power to restrict, stop or manage the establishment of news agencies and its content. Speech, publishing, writing, communication, assembly and association were strictly con-trolled.

May 9, "Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of National Mobilization for Suppression of the Communist Rebellion" was announced on May 9. This expanded the power of the president and the constitutional regulations on urgent disciplinary action were suspended.

May 19. The Governor of Taiwan Provincial Government and Commander of Taiwan Garrison Command Chen Cheng announced 'Taiwan's Martial Law". The Martial Law became effective on May 20 and was terminated after 38 years on July 15, 1987. The Martial Law strictly prohibited all kinds of assembly and parade, student and labor strike and demagoguery. Serious offenses of laws could end up in death penalty.
The Martial Law period is also known as the "White Terror Era". According to a report from Judicial Yuan, around 60 to 70 thousand political cases and 200 thousand people went through military trial, and at least 140 thousand of them were innocent victims.
June 21. "Statute of Rebellion Punishment" was announced, in addition to expand the definition of crime to suppress political dissidents.

June. "Counterintelligence Investigation Act During the Period of National Mobilization" was announced.
December 1. Implemented "Paper Saving Act during War" that restricted the number of the pages of the newspaper to be published. In 1951, the government announced "Certificate Limitation Policy" to limit the registration of new newspaper agencies, and the printing factories was restricted to only one location.

March 25. The Legislative Yuan adopted amendment of "Publication Act", which implemented the pre-registration of publications and prohibits contents that violated or incited others to commit "Offenses against internal and external security, Offenses of Interference with Public Functions, Offenses of Interference with Voting, Offenses of Interference with Public Order, Offenses Against Religion, Graves and Corpses or Offenses Against Sexual Morality"

July 27. The government announced "Regulations Governing newspaper, magazines, and books during the period of Martial Law in Taiwan Province", which prohibited all publications from leaking classified national security, publicizing communist propaganda, slandering head of the nation, violating anti-communism and anti-Russia national policy, causing of the loss of morale, harming social security and instigating anti-government acts, etc.

Jun 28. The fifth amendment of "Publication Act" regulated the punishment, which revoked the publisher's official authorization, of "turbulent speech" about sedition and offenses against external security. The International Federation of Journalists took this amendment as a hard evidence of no freedom of press in Taiwan.

The Taiwan Garrison Command announced "Regulations on Publication during the Period of Martial Law". Regulations forbidding all kinds of publications from Mainland China was added later.

April 23. The Executive Yuan amended "Regulations Governing newspaper, agazines, and books during the period of Martial Law in Taiwan Province" into "Regulations Governing publications during the period of Martial Law in Taiwan Region". Additional amendments banned all books, translated literatures and publications from Communist Rebellion.

July 15. "Martial Law" was lifted.

January 1. Restrictions on newspaper terminated.

May 1. "Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of National Mobilization for Suppression of the Communist Rebellion" terminated.
May 22. "Betrayers Punishment Act" terminated. 
May 23. "Counterintelligence Investigation Act During the Period of National Mobilization" terminated.

May 16. Announced the amendment to "Criminal Law", Article 100. Only "Insurgencies by coercion of violence and threat" is constituted of sedition.
August 1. Taiwan Garrison Command dismissed.

January 13. "Publication Act" terminated.

Keywords: #freedom-of-speech

Exhibitions and events

Come with Us, Please — A Journey of Articulating Injustice and Shaping Collective Memory

Temporary exhibition at National Human Rights Museum until 30.04.2020

CHEN Kuan-yu Born in Keelung, Taiwan in 1985, Chen is a visual artist and freelance director/ photographer. For years, he has been working in the fields of performing arts and visual arts. His...

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