Wednesday, January 09, 2008

[The Chosun Ilbo, January 8 2008] Press Laws Must Go

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism submitted a report to the presidential Transition Committee on Monday, promising to come up with alternative legislation so that the existing Newspaper Law could be scrapped in accordance with President-elect Lee Myung-bak’s campaign pledge. As a result, state-run organizations that were created by the government to aid pro-government newspapers will be transformed into independent entities.

Just two and a half years after it was created by the Roh Moo-hyun administration, the Newspaper Law has been placed on a course for the scrap heap. There is one simple reason why the Roh administration so stubbornly insisted on the enactment of the law: to reduce the readership of newspapers that were critical of the Roh administration and to boost the number of people subscribing to dailies that sided with it. The government believed it would be able to crush critical newspapers, while propping up those that got on its good side. That basic premise is more ignorant than the oppressive methods used by military dictators.


The Press Arbitration law, which was also passed along with the Newspaper Law, is full of regulations that deter newspapers from keeping the government in check, such as clauses that make it possible to demand corrections of articles that did not violate any regulations either through willful intent or negligence. Also in need of being scrapped are regulations that authorized the Fair Trade Commission to conduct midnight raids for the past five years on small newspaper distribution outlets, delivering only 1,000 or 2,000 copies each, slapping them with millions of won in fines.

Justice must be done as quickly as possible.

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