&#91EDITORIALS&#93Power over the press

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[EDITORIALS]Power over the press

The Regulatory Reform Commission’s first subcommittee on business finally has approved revising the code of conduct for newspapers. We strongly disagree with the decision ― unjust, according to the Korea Newspapers Association ― to allow the government to intervene in the newspaper market, as the Fair Trade Commission wished.
If the reform commission approves the revision, there is no real meaning to the principle that the Korea Newspapers Association may voluntarily regulate unfair business practice by newspapers. Instead, the government can now influence newspapers hostile to it by putting pressure on their managements. Although the subcommittee attached some conditions to prevent excessive intervention, this revision allows the government to be the judge of whether newspapers violate the code of conduct.
The government said the revision would bring order to the newspaper market. We don’t believe it. If the government simply wants order, it should first see how the Korea Newspapers Association’s promise of self-regulation goes. We think the government is determined on market intervention no matter what. It has cited the 75 percent market share of the three largest newspapers and set guidelines on newspaper reporting. The government has provoked suspicions that its assertion of power over the market is a bid to stop the major papers from criticizing it. In fact, according to Korea Newspapers Association statistics, the newspaper market is more balanced now than in 1999, when the government yielded its power of intervention. Yet it insists that its renewed intervention will bring order. We are not persuaded.
The newspaper code of conduct is both for self-regulation by newspapers and to prevent disruptive business practices. Since the revision negates self-regulation, there is no further reason for the code to exist. The commission should either overturn the subcommittee decision or abolish the code of conduct. The Kim Dae-jung government tried to gag the press with tax audits and fair-trade investigations. We ask the Roh Moo-hyun government not to follow suit.
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