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[EDITORIALS]A Government That Doesn't Listen

Apr 17,2001
Warning after warning has been issued that the government's media policy, centering on tax audits and revived regulations on newspapers, violates press freedom. In the National Assembly, some lawmakers of the United Liberal Democrats, which is allied with the ruling Millennium Democratic Party, are taking issue with the policy, joining legislators of the opposition Grand National Party. The opposition party and some civic groups plan to petition the Constitutional Court, arguing that the newspaper regulations either are unconstitutional themselves or have unconstitutional elements. The government should take note.

At issue is whether the government is attempting to gag critical newspapers. "The Fair Trade Commission rammed the rules through the Regulatory Reform Committee despite the industry's opposition. Asking newspaper companies now to police themselves is tantamount to imposing the direct rule of the FTC," opposition lawmakers said. "The regulations have paved the way for the government to intervene in the management of newspaper companies." A group of lawyers also pointed out, "The new regulations will violate the public's basic right to know by hampering free reporting by newspapers, whose role include criticizing the government." Government control also seems clear from remarks by Lee Nam-kee, head of the antitrust commission. "The FTC will intervene if the newspapers do not abide by the industry's self-imposed regulations," Mr. Lee said. He also proposed a set of guidelines for the self-regulation by the Korea Newspapers Association, saying, "Punishment clauses must not be too weak." The commission explained that it was a statement of principle. The commission trumpets "autonomy" while suggesting a framework for self-regulation, but it intimidates the press with threats of "FTC intervention" even before the industry rules go into effect. The commission may intend to pave the way for government control and oppression of newspapers. "Is this a socialist country? The government tries to control even the home delivery system," said Lee Hoi-chang, the opposition head. The government should be rational, look back on what went wrong and rectify its faults.



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