[EDITORIALS]Blackmailing the press

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[EDITORIALS]Blackmailing the press

The Korea Commission for the Press announced that each newspaper publisher must submit detailed information about its management by May 31. If a newspaper agency does not hand in the information as required, a fine of up to 20 million won ($21,199) will be imposed.
This decision follows the new regulations on newspaper publishers. The new laws have been challenged as unconstitutional; an appeal is now being debated at the Constitutional Court.
Of course, newspaper publishers should submit information on their management to the tax authorities, since they are companies as well. Information on their business is needed to ensure transparent management and to prevent tax evasion, which is why all newspaper publishers had submitted their data, without exception, until now.
When looking at the level of detail that the commission requires, however, one might wonder whether this institute exists to help the press or to kill it. They want daily reports of newspaper sales at news stands and the number of the copies on sale at each branch.
Newspaper publishers, like all companies, have business secrets. Asking them to reveal all their secrets is telling them to go out of business.
If the tax office demanded that Samsung Electronics submit daily reports on its sales at every single store, who would think it reasonable? Demanding that a paper reveal all its investors suggests to potential investors that they should not invest in newspapers critical of the government.
This goes against the principle of equality in the Constitution. If the government places newspaper publishers under its control, how can newspapers criticize the government and keep it in check?
We can’t help but suspect that there is some kind of ulterior motive behind this unreasonable demand. We are convinced that the government intends to clamp down on the press, using newspapers’ business secrets or weak points as leverage.
This is why some foreign experts say South Korea’s press is stepping backwards. The 2006 Freedom House report placed South Korea in 69th place for press freedom, three steps down from last year. We are now in the same ranking as Namibia.
Isn’t that shameful for a country that is the world’s 11th largest economy? The only way to end this shame is for the Supreme Court to rule the newspaper law unconstitutional. The law should be suspended until the toxic clauses are revised after a Supreme Court ruling.
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