[EDITORIALS]The Press and Anachronistic Laws

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[EDITORIALS]The Press and Anachronistic Laws

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism recently gave suspension of publication notices to 11 dailies, including Naeil Shinmoon, for failing to meet the standards specified in the Registration of Periodicals Act, creating a stir around the nation. Of the 11 papers notified, Naeil Shinmoon is an evening paper, launched in September last year. There is something inexplicable about the ministry's action which is taken seven months after the launch. The ministry explains that they inspected on a regular basis, and they found some problems with the paper during a recent site inspection. But following as it did a series of recent government measures on the media, including a tax probe, fair trade investigations and revived newspaper regulations, the notice raises suspicions that the government is now pursuing an all-out offensive against critical newspapers.

The ministry notified Naeil Shinmoon that the paper violated the condition of lease for rotary presses stated in the registration act. According to the act, a daily newspaper should own or lease facilities capable of printing more than 20,000 copies per hour. If the paper violates this condition, the government could suspend publication for no more than 3 months. Naeil Shinmoon said it leased one rotary press from the Korea Daily News, paying 250 million won ($192,604) per year. However, the ministry argued that the machine was not leased for exclusive use by Naeil Shinmoon. The ministry's extremely strict application of the law raised eyebrows. If every daily has to buy or enter an exclusive lease contract for a rotary press, despite the merit of utilizing idle facilities, the result would be excessive and unnecessary investments. As the stir grows, the ministry is emphasizing that there is no precedent of publication suspension, shooting back that "The newspapers concerned may submit proof to show that they are not guilty." The military regimes in the past forcibly required newspapers to own expensive printing facilities in order to heighten the barrier to join the press circle. The "people's government" should not employ such an anachronistic measure. If the law itself is problematic, it should be revised in order not to repeat the same mistakes.
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