Ruling Party Must Drop Press Gag Bill

  • By Shin Dong-heun

    September 24, 2021 13:59

    The International Press Institute, whose members include journalist from 120 countries around the world, at its congress in Vienna on Sept. 17 passed a resolution condemning Korea's planned media gag law that ostensibly aims to quell "fake news." The IPI included Korea among such egregious violators as China and Pakistan as targets of its condemnation. It was referring to the media reform bill the ruling Minjoo Party hopes to pass before the next presidential election to stifle criticism of the government’s dismal performance and corruption in its ranks. The MP floor leader accused the IPI of being "ignorant" and tried to push the bill through again on Thursday, but the condemnation clearly shows that journalists around the world are keeping a close eye on Korea as it attempts to suppress media freedom, just as China is doing in Hong Kong, the military junta in Myanmar and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

    A whole slew of august international bodies have condemned the bill. The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, International Federation of Journalists and Reporters Without Borders also said such a law, which would make reporters liable to huge punitive fines in civil suits, should be unimaginable in a democratic country. Even the Office for the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights has blasted the bill as "utterly disproportionate" and limiting "a wide range of expression." Here, the National Assembly Research Service pointed out that punitive compensation for media reporting is unprecedented in major countries unless other laws have been breached, and a vice minister of culture and sports admitted such steps are "unprecedented." The National Human Rights Commission also said the bill threatens to suppress media freedom.

    Faced with mounting criticism from within Korea and abroad, the MP last month agreed to postpone the bill until Sept. 27 and opted to form a consultative group with the opposition. But nobody in the ruling party appears interested in revising or removing the most contentious parts. No solution can be found simply by fiddling with the embroidery. Korea's major journalists' associations on Thursday urged lawmakers to "immediately halt related discussions." When will the ruling party realize it has made a colossal mistake?

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