Taipei, April 27 (CNA) A package of amendments to the Personal Data Protection Act were passed into law Tuesday after concerns over its potential restrictions on press freedom were smoothed out.
Before the amendments cleared the legislative floor, ruling and opposition lawmakers reached a consensus on exempting mass media from the legislation's requirement that the consent of an individual has to be obtained before personal information about that person is released publicly.
Based on the principle of protecting public interests, mass media outlets will now be allowed by the amendments to obtain personal information on parties involved in news reports without obtaining their consent in advance, according to the newly enacted law.
Legislators, however, were not exempted from the stipulation.
Controversy has brewed over the bill since last week after the Legislature's Organic Laws and Statutes Committee decided to remove a clause in the amendments that would have exempted the media from the consent requirement.
The passage of the law comes after the Presidential Office issued a statement on April 22 that said freedom of the press is not only a constitutionally protected basic human right but also the bedrock of democracy.
It stressed that President Ma Ying-jeou is adamant that press freedom should be protected.
The newly enacted law also excludes personal blogs from the consent requirement.
Nevertheless, Chin Cheng-hsiang, director of the Ministry of Justice's Department of Legal Affairs, said bloggers will be dealt with under the Civil Code if their posts damage others' reputations or use their personal pictures without obtaining prior consent.
As there has been controversy over the definition of "public interests, " a sub-resolution was also passed Tuesday, demanding that the Executive Yuan engage in further discussion with experts and civic groups on the definition of "public interests." (By Kelven Huang, Justin Su and Deborah Kuo)
The new law basically says that personal data must be related to the "public interest". Needless to say, the law does not define what the public interest is, leaving government agencies (for example) free to refuse information requests as not in the "public interest."
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