September 17, 2021 11:24
The leading international human rights watchdog has urged President Moon Jae-in and the National Assembly to scrap a planned media reform bill that critics say is a gag on media freedom.
Human Rights Watch said in a letter Thursday that the bill could seriously undermine the freedom of expression and suppress critical reporting.
The ruling Minjoo Party had intended to railroad the bill through last month but put it on hold amid mounting international criticism.
The letter points out that the bill leaves room for abuse as it defines "false or manipulated news" in broad and vague terms that are "incompatible with international standards for restrictions on freedom of expression."
The essential flow of information could be restricted if media organizations censor themselves to avoid writing reports that could result in a spate of lawsuits under the bill, it added.
"Disproportionate sanctions such as heavy fines can have a significant chilling effect on freedom of expression. Punitive damages are only appropriate to compensate for harm to reputation in certain exceptional circumstances," the letter warned. But "the broad language of the amendment does not implicate any concerns that would merit such exceptional treatment."
The letter was sent jointly with Article 19, the Korean Progressive Network Jinbonet, and the Open Net.
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