[EDITORIALS]Truth, if government allowsThe Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice has petitioned the National Assembly for revision of the law on making public government-held information. This reflects public resentment over the Assembly’s negligence of its duty. It has failed to amend a law that damages the people’s right to know the truth.
It is well known that the existing law withholds information from the public. The law stipulates eight categories of information that should not be made public, written in vague words such as “when vital national interest is endangered.” The law has been abused in accordance with government convenience. In general, government offices have a chronic abhorrence of releasing information.
Although President Roh Moo-hyun has ordered a study of “ways to publicize all available information,” there is no sign of improvement. Recently, the news media requested the Blue House to release the minutes of meetings of senior presidential secretaries and advisers, but only a summary of cabinet minutes was made public.
We can no longer postpone revision of the law. Draft amendments, including one submitted by the government in 2001 and another by the Peoples Solidarity for Participatory Democracy and 50 other civic groups, await the Assembly’s deliberation.
The draft sponsored by the government seeks to expand the scope of nondisclosable information. As the government shows no intention of withdrawing or revising the draft, the Assembly should take action. Based on a petition submitted by advocacy groups, demanding punishment of those refusing to release information, and proposals made by academics, the Assembly should prepare its own bill.
If public disclosure of government information is insufficient, it becomes difficult for news media to confirm facts ― not to mention dig into the truth. Yet the government busies itself with introducing a new briefing system at government agencies. Both ruling and opposition-party legislators should keep in mind that they are the last bastion to protect people’s right to know the truth.