Int'l Condemnation Mounts of Attempts to Gag Press

  • By Choi Eun-kyung

    August 30, 2021 12:18

    The government faces mounting international criticism for its attempt to curb media freedom in Korea in the name of cracking down on "fake news."

    The proposed media reform bill would make reporting "fake news" punishable by vast punitive damages, and has been widely condemned as a tool to quell criticism of the government ahead of next year's presidential election.

    At home, the main opposition People Power Party said it will filibuster the bill tabled by the ruling Minjoo Party, which has a sweeping majority. The filibuster may delay the bill past the August session of the National Assembly, but the MP will simply table it again in September.

    Reporters gather as People Power Party floor leader Kim Gi-hyeon protests against a proposed media reform bill in front of the National Assembly in Seoul on Monday. /Yonhap

    The Society of Professional Journalists added its voice to the chorus of international condemnation.

    In an interview with the Donga Ilbo on Sunday, SPJ co-chair Dan Kubiske said the bill is a rare instance of such media curbs in a democratic country and declared himself "extremely disappointed."

    He pointed out that Hong Kong is pursuing similar steps and warned the fact that the definition of "fake news" in the bill are so vague and sweeping "will risk the country's freedom in all aspects of people's lives." Like many other critics, Kubiske added that it would invariably lead to self-censorship among journalists.

    Japan's Mainichi Shimbun in an editorial said the ruling party, whose leaders boast that they fought for more democracy in the 1980s, now "employ reckless political tactics that undermine universal values by utilizing the power of majority as a powerful ruling party."

    Earlier, Reporters Without Borders, the International Federation of Journalists and the International Press Institute also issued statements condemning the bill.

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