[EDITORIALS]Killing roots of free speech

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[EDITORIALS]Killing roots of free speech

Twenty-four politicians from the ruling Millennium Democratic Party and three from the Grand National Party have formed a cartel and submitted to the National Assembly, without notice, an amendment to a law governing news publications.

The amendment calls for the establishment of editorial committees and for newspapers to report their business data to the government. In addition, a fine would be levied on any company that neglects its reporting duty.

We find this idea absurd, indeed very foolish, and cannot hide our worries on this issue. That this crazy idea came from the same people who preached press reform is hard to believe. How can these people devise a tool that would gag our freedom of speech?

In the case of the JoongAng Ilbo, most of the things called for are already in practice. To maintain an independent newsroom we have an editorial committee, comprising representatives from labor and management, which holds discussions every week on matters related to the production of the paper.

To establish transparent management we have outside directors serving on the board of directors, but our efforts to guarantee fair reporting does not end there; we receive criticism and reprimands from a readers committee and try to consider their opinions as much as we can.

The underlying condition for all these measures is a self-controlling mechanism that serves as the cornerstone for autonomy. Although newspapers that lack an independent newsroom and transparent management might exist, force should not be used to change them.

Let the readers be the judge and let market principles exercise their corrective might.

On top of tax audits, the enforced reporting of business data to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism pushes the limit. This is clearly intended to get a tighter grip on the press. Such acts to ensure a fair press only sacrifice its very roots.

The ruling party says that such measures have not been discussed as part of party policy, and the Grand National Party says that it does not see the need to submit the amendment to the Standing Committee.

As much relief as this brings, we are deeply disturbed that this initiative comes at a time when the echo of the latest tax audits on the media are still ringing in our ears.
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