Gov't Delays Press Gag Bill as Int'l Pressure Mounts

  • By Joo Hee-yeon

    September 01, 2021 13:49

    The ruling Minjoo Party on Tuesday caved in to mounting international outrage over a planned media reform bill that critics say is a gag on media freedom.

    The MP agreed with the main opposition People Power Party, which had been filibustering the bill, to postpone putting it to a plenary vote in the National Assembly on Sept. 27 and deliberate further.

    President Moon Jae-in welcomed the decision in his first response to the controversy over the bill. He had remained mute while the MP railroaded it through several committees.

    Earlier the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights added its voice to a chorus of international condemnation by writing to the Korean government to protest against the bill.

    The OHCHR wrote to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism asking the government to explain its position on fears that the bill violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

    A spokesman for the MP said the government sent a copy of the letter to the party "for reference as the bill is under deliberation at the National Assembly."

    The OHCHR sent the letter after the Transitional Justice Working Group, a non-profit human rights civic group, asked a UN special rapporteur on Aug. 24 to convey concerns over the bill to the Korean government.

    The government must respond officially within 60 days. The bill ostensibly aims to crack down on "fake news" by imposing massive punitive fines if the subject of incorrect reporting sues, but the terms are broad and vaguely defined.

    On Tuesday, seven media organizations here including the Korean Association of Newspapers and the Korea News Editors Association also demanded the bill be scotched. 

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