20130506 Taipei school, students clash over free speech
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Taipei school, students clash over free speech

By Chiu Shao-wen and Jason Pan / Staff reporter, with staff writer

Song Shan Senior High School (SSSH) came under fire recently from its students for allegedly seeking to censor articles in the Taipei school’s journal.

The controversy centered around two articles in the upcoming issue of the student publication Song Shan Youth (松山青年).

One of the articles was written by Yu Yen-shu (游硯舒), titled “What is the Role of a School Journal?” In the article, Yu questioned whether Song Shan Youth is a mouthpiece for the school or a platform for students. He urged fellow students to earnestly contemplate the role and meaning of the school journal.

The other article was penned by Wang Yi-chu (王奕筑), titled “Editing and Review Procedures for Submitted Articles.” In the article, she challenged existing review procedures and said that since the school journal is financed by students and the editorial is run by students, it should not be subject to review and restrictions imposed by others. She said that when authorities try to take control of the media, it casts a dark shadow on freedom of speech.

Students took out the two articles from the proof pages they sent to the school’s Office for Student Affairs for review after getting wind of the office’s alleged disapproval of the articles.

On Saturday, the students posted the two articles on the Facebook page of “SSSH Kiss” (松青社), the student club responsible for editing the Song Shan Youth journal, and found resonance with many fellow students.

“In this day and age, why are there still controls and restrictions on freedom of speech?” some asked. “Is martial law still in force at our school?”

Several teachers also responded positively to the articles, saying they showed the spirit and capacity for independent thinking and that the ideas were presented in a logical and coherent manner.

In a meeting with Wang and Yu on Tuesday, Student Affairs Office director Chen Chun-nan (陳俊男) said: “From the beginning to the end, we never said the articles cannot be published. We just wanted them to make some changes to the articles.”

“The journal represents the school,” he said, adding that after all, the school is the publisher and it cares about the content that appears in the journal.

Chen said Wang interviewed him for her article, but he felt that Wang’s questions did not zero in on the core issue. As for the other article, Chen said he disagreed with Yu’s assertion that the journal has become a mouthpiece for the school. As such, Chen said he would like to hear more diverse voices on the issues.

Wang said she also wanted to hear more diverse voices on the issues, which is why she posted the articles on Facebook so that they can be circulated online.

“It would be good for the articles to be published. If the people being interviewed are not happy about the presentation of their views, I am willing to conduct the interview again. However, it is my personal wish that my article be published without the requested changes,” she said.

“The school and teachers can give suggestions at appropriate times. However, unless the article espouses extreme views, they should interfere as little as possible and give students more room to exercise their autonomy,” she added.

When asked for comment, most school officials said they respected the students’ freedom to express their ideas in school journals.

“For the student journal at our school, for example, the school principal is the publisher, so the school has to review the publication,” said Lin Chien-hui (林千惠), director of student affairs at Taipei’s Zhongshan Girls’ High School.

In general, school officials said they only correct typos and do not interfere unless the content involves sexual, obscene, immoral, violent or plagiarized material.

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