Monday, December 3, 2007

Government Confiscation of Books? What Age are We Living In?

Government Confiscation of Books? What Age are We Living In?
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
December 3, 2007

Chen Shui-bian's declaration that he was "seriously considering imposing martial law" makes us uneasy. But the recent Gestapo raid conducted by the National Security Bureau, public prosecutors, and police against the Shih Ying Publishing Company, makes us even more uneasy.

Chen Shui-bian's words have left a bad odor in our nostrils, and a queasy feeling in the pit of our stomachs. The Gestapo raid conducted by public prosecutors and police on a private sector publishing house, have provided us with a real world demonstration of how quickly an evil we thought we had bid farewell to on Taiwan over 20 years ago, could make such a surprisingly speedy comeback.

Don't tell us this is an isolated case. Don't talk to us about "national security." Don't tell us that "freedom of speech has limits." This is the 20th anniversary of the lifting of martial law on Taiwan. The Democratic Progressive Party rose to power on its promise to "rule the nation on a foundation of human rights." Yet now, on the basis of a single search warrant, it has allowed hordes of prosecutors and police to swoop down on a private sector publishing house, to arbitrarily seize and impound a large number of publications. This is a scene we have not witnessed on Taiwan since police raided the premises of "Dang Wai" (party outsider) magazines and confiscated banned political journals. So now we know. The National Security Bureau's understanding of the public's right to freedom of expression and freedom of press, and its respect for property rights, is 20 years behind the times, frozen in the era of the Police Superintendent.

Do not casually dismiss this case. If government agencies can arbitrarily accuse private sector publications of revealing state secrets, If prosecutors and police can ransack publishers' premises and confiscate their publications, on the basis of a single piece of paper, then the impact of such displays of police power is too frightening by far. If such conduct is tolerated, even forgiven, does our constitutionally guaranteed freedom of opinion and freedom of the press still have any meaning? Does the ruling party still have a right to boast of its human rights record, 20 years after the rescinding of martial law, without turning red in the face or skipping a heartbeat?

Even more disturbing, is that intelligence agencies, prosecutors, police, and even judicial authorities, consider swooping down on a private sector publishing house to search its premises and to confiscate its inventory of books acceptable behavior. All you need is a search warrant. No one in the entire government has been willing to stand up and denounce such behavior as wrong. The public has also been silent on the matter. Therefore we can confidently predict that this will not be an isolated case. This will merely be the beginning.

A few years ago, Next Magazine was subjected to a Gestapo raid for reporting the National Security Budget. The search was controversial, but at least it did not prevent the magazine's normal publication. Whether the magazine actually leaked secrets was left to the courts to decide. This time however, the ruling DPP's goons impounded the publisher's books outright. This is utterly intolerable. When Chen Shui-bian said he was seriously considering imposing martial law, he was exceeding his constitutionally delegated authority. When prosecutors and police impounded a private sector publishing house's inventory of books, they were issuing a direct challenge to the constitution.

Given the National Security Bureau's own internal and external security measures, it is impossible to prevent its own retiring personnel from divulging secrets. Besides, Hsiao Tai-fu, the accused in this case, allowed the National Security Bureau to review his book before it was published, and the book was already being sold on the Internet in early November, Why did the National Security Bureau wait until now to search the publisher's premises and impound the books? Wouldn't any earthshaking secrets have been leaked a long time ago? Besides, everyone who has read this book by a senior intelligence operative says it doesn't contain any extraordinary secrets, The process of searching the publishing house's premises and impounding the books was nothing but a warning to others. Was it because the author "affronted the dignity of senior officials" or some other reason? To tell the truth, we don't really care. The National Security Bureau's problems with its own internal management, do not amount to an excuse to infringe freedom of expression or the freeom of the press.

This is not the first time we have raised many of these issues. But we have found to our dismay, that after 20 years of trial by fire, although ROC citizens now have some concept of human rights, the government remains frozen in the martial law era. It imagines it can unilaterally decide whether an accused divulged a state secret in a private sector publication, and that on the basis of a single search warrant, it can ransack and impound the such publications. Freedom of opinion and freedom of the press are constitutionally safeguarded basic rights. The 20 years that have elapsed since the lifting of martial law apparently have no meaning for apparatchiks ensconced in the state apparatus.

Perhaps it is necessary to reemphasize an important point. Any information that affects the public interest, belongs to the people. It does not belong to the nation. Any national secrets are not the property of the government, even intelligence agencies. Prosecutors and police do not have the right to unilaterally make such judgments. At the very least, courts must rule on such matters. The constitutional safeguards written into the constitution safeguarding freedom of opinion and freedom of the press, safeguard the people's rights, and limit the government's actions, because the only institution that can can infringe upon the people's freedom of opinion and freedom of the press, is the government.

Several years ago, we went to great lengths to abolish the Publication Laws. We wanted to guard against the government infringing upon the people's freedom of opinion and freedom of the press. Now we have such constitutional safeguards. We no longer have the Publication Laws. Yet the government infringes upon the people's freedom of opinion and freedom of press in exactly the same way. Is it not obvious that democracy is in full retreat?

中國時報  2007.12.03
什麼年代了 還查抄出版社!

  如果說,陳水扁的「慎重考慮戒嚴」說令我們感到驚訝, 那麼國安局與檢警人員日前到時英出版社查抄書籍的動作,則是讓我們感到驚懼! 陳水扁的語言讓我們嗅到了那尚在星星之火的不祥意圖, 但檢警查抄出版社的作為, 卻讓我們見識到了具體行動, 一個已經在台灣消逝二十多年的惡行, 竟就在這麼不經意間悄悄復活了!

 別辯稱這只是個案,也不要搬出什麼「國家安全」如何如何,更不要扯什麼「言論自由不能無限上綱」這種謬 論。此時此刻是解嚴二十年後的台灣,這是一個反覆以「人權治國」為標榜的政黨在執政,竟容得大批檢警人員,拿著一紙搜索令,就能闖進一家民間的出版社,不 由分說就將大批出版品全部查扣帶走。這幅只有在二十年前警總查扣黨外雜誌才看得到的畫面,全套的在此刻的台灣重現了!原來解嚴了二十年,我們的國安局與檢 警人員對人民言論、出版自由的理解,對人民財產權的尊重,竟然還停留在二十年前的警總年代。

 千萬別輕忽這個案例,如果政府相關部門可以 片面指控人民的著作出版洩密,如果檢警僅憑一紙搜索令就可以將出版品當違禁品予以查扣沒收,那麼它的示範效應實在是太可怕了!這些行為如果是可以被容許 的,甚至是可以被原諒的,那麼我們真的不知道憲法中所謂的言論出版自由,還有沒有意義?我們更不知道,執政黨還有沒有資格在這解嚴二十年的時刻,臉不紅氣 不喘的繼續吹噓他們對人權保障的功業?

 而更令我們害怕的是,如果從情治單位、檢警甚至司法單位,都認為直接闖進一家民間出版社查扣書籍 的行為,是可以被容許的,是一紙公文就可以恣意執行的作為,而整個政府上下沒有一個人願意站出來批評這個行為不對,整個民間也都噤聲不語,那我們可以在這 預言:這不會只是個個案,這將會是個開端!

 還記得前幾年,壹週刊曾經因為報導國安祕帳案而遭搜索,過程雖有爭議,但至少沒有阻止雜誌正 常出刊,洩密與否則歸司法審理。但這次卻是過分到直接查扣書籍,就完全不能原諒了!如果說陳水扁的慎重考慮戒嚴說是在憲政理念的信守上越了界,則這次檢警 在查扣民間出版品的作為,則是直接在向憲法挑戰了。

 講實在話,以國安局本身的內控與外控機制,不可能做不到防堵自己的離休人員著書洩 密,更何況這次事件的當事人蕭台福在出書前都給國安局看過,且該書在十一月初就已經在網路販售,國安局拖到這個時候才大張旗鼓搜索查扣,真要有什麼驚天動 地的大機密,不早就全洩露光了?更何況看過該書的資深情治人員都說該書根本沒有什麼了不得的機密,整個偵辦查扣的行動被相關人士解讀為是在「殺雞儆猴」, 是因為作者「挑戰長官尊嚴」,而到底實情究為何?不諱言說我們其實沒太大興趣想知道,我們所最不能接受的是,國安局不能因為自己內部管理機制出了問題,就 以傷害人民的言論、出版自由為代價。

 有許多觀念,我們已不是第一次強調,但我們很遺憾的發現,經歷解嚴二十年的淬鍊,台灣人民已經具有 人權的觀念,但政府的許多部門卻還停留在戒嚴的年代,自認可以片面就判定民間出版品有無洩密,可以持一張搜索令就將人民的出版品查扣搬走,言論出版自由這 些憲法所保障的基本權利,經過了解嚴二十年,對身處國家機器裡的人們,好像根本毫無意義。

 或許,我們有必要在這再強調一次:任何涉及公 共利益的資訊,是屬於人民的,不屬於國家的,什麼是國家機密,不是情治單位、甚至檢警有資格片面裁定的,最起碼是該交由司法裁定的;而憲法所保障的人民言 論出版自由,不是寫在憲法裡供觀賞用的,它具體保障的是人民權利,所規範的是政府的作為,因為唯一能侵犯人民言論出版自由的,就是政府。


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