[EDITORIALS]Misguided newspaper lawsLaws regulating the newspaper industry are going into effect today, six months after they were passed. Our hearts are aching, because these are laws that should never have existed. We have grave doubts that they can advance the democratic exchange of views and promote healthy development of the press. On the contrary, we believe they will infringe on the freedom of the press.
The laws are supposedly meant to emphasize the press’s responsibility to society. But while that responsibility is certainly precious, it cannot supersede press freedom. That freedom is a precondition if the press is to fulfill its basic responsibility as a watchdog. One cannot ask the press to be responsible while limiting its ability to do its basic task. Thus, laws related to the newspaper industry must be of a nature that allows it to live up to its repsonsibilities in a free manner.
But the new laws emphasize the press’s social responsibility over its freedom, and it imposes that responsibility by coercion. The laws interfere with the editing committees of each newspaper, which are supposed to operate freely. The new arbitration law dictates that a third party, not just a victim, can request a special committee to impose corrective measures on a paper. This is contrary to the custom in many developed countries, where the press resolves such matters on its own.
What is more, the new laws will not help the industry develop but cause it to regress. Under fair trade law, three companies with a combined market share of more than 75 percent are considered monopolies, but the new laws will reduce the threshhold for newspapers to 60 percent. The law also bars newspapers from running broadcast companies and wire services. The assertion that the law will promote healthy development of the press is just empty talk; in truth, it will tie the press’s hands.
We have already pointed out that the new laws violate the Constitution, and have urged that the National Assembly revise them before the Constitutional Court issues a ruling. On Tuesday, Grand National Party lawmaker Shim Jae-chul submitted revised versions of the bills. Governing and opposition party lawmakers need to get together as soon as possible to start the revision process. Now that the law has taken effect, the longer a revision is delayed, the more confusion will ensue. The National Assembly needs to scrap these misguided laws quickly.