[EDITORIALS]An evil bill to stifle the pressIf the media have engaged in bad practices in the past, they should redress them and fulfill their duties given by the present era.
Since the Donglipsinmun (The Independent) was born about 100 years ago, Korea has overcome its unfortunate past and developed into a democratic society. As it did, we saw the media playing the role of a light in Korean society, and also casting a shadow at times. The media’s role as the light of society will have to develop further and dark area should be highlighted anew. But that is a process the media themselves should take care of. The government should not interfere with the process because doing so would mean government control over the freedom of the press.
The media reform bills the governing Uri Party drafted yesterday destroyed our hopes for the true advancement of journalism and democratic society. The bills not only failed to reflect the fast-changing media environment but also they threaten the market and consumers, the pillars of a liberal market economy.
Our media environment is changing fast from newspapers to broadcasting to the Internet.
A slew of statistics shows that the share of newspapers in the media market is decreasing. Still, the party’s bills only focus on regulating the newspaper industry. They do not regulate the broadcasting companies that have much higher audience influence and media market share.
One clause in the proposed legislation says that when a newspaper’s share in the newspaper market is over 30 percent or when any three newspapers’ combined market share is more than 60 percent, they will be regarded as monopolistic businesses.
Those provisions have no precedent internationally. When a publisher produces a good newspaper and readers want to read it, the government says, “Oh, that newspaper has too large a circulation. You should not read it. You should read other newspapers.”
The Korean people now will have to live in a society where they cannot read the newspapers they like. This situation would have been inconceivable even under the past authoritarian regimes.
Indeed, Korea could now enter into an age of darkness in which only newspapers favorably disposed toward the administration can survive.
We ask the Uri Party to become more candid: we believe the bills are actually aimed at three newspapers ― Chosun Ilbo, JoongAng Ilbo and Dong-a Ilbo. Even some European countries that restrict newspapers’ market share have never targeted particular newspapers the way the current bill aims to do. That unreasonable clause in the bills should be deleted immediately.
The clause that obliges media companies to report their assets to the Culture Ministry is another measure to stifle newspapers. The Uri Party’s explanation that the clause derived from the German example is not warranted. That newspapers should report their circulation, sales and advertising incomes, stock issuance and shareholding records to the ministry shows the government’s intention to control the newspaper industry.
That clause is similar to one that existed during the Fifth Republic of Korea, under former President Chun Doo Hwan’s authoritarian regime.
In this 21st century, in which Korea boasts of its democracy, that kind of evil law should not be revived.
We strongly demand that the Uri Party delete these evil clauses from the bills. There is enough time for the bills to be put into final form. The bills should not be translated into a law that our descendants will be ashamed of.
We will fight to the end against any forcible plan to kill freedom of the press in Korea.