[EDITORIALS]New bill is no revision

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[EDITORIALS]New bill is no revision

The Uri Party presented yesterday a revised version for newspapers act. The new version, however, is worse than the original. Some parts that the Constitutional Court ruled were unconstitutional have been erased or changed. But the changes are too minor to call it a revision. A part about “dominating businesses” has been changed into “large-scaled daily businesses.”
A regulation that required dailies to submit data on their business has been intensified, although that regulation is controversial as to whether it is constitutional or not. According to the old bill, a daily that violated that regulation had to pay a fine of up to 20 million won ($22,508).
Under the revised version, a daily that violates the regulation can be forced to stop publishing newspapers. A regulation that prohibited newspapers from running broadcasting companies remains unchanged.
The most controversial part is the arbitrary term “large-scaled newspaper businesses.” The act does not define the standard of being large-scaled, but the party plans to make it a presidential decree. The government can call certain newspapers such businesses at its will. This is a trick to pressure newspapers that criticize the government. It does not make sense to limit freedom of speech, which is a basic right under the Constitution, while regulating newspapers under a presidential decree.
The revised bill also has not changed parts about providing newspapers with funds, which has been criticized as carrots for pro-government dailies, and about a newspaper distribution agency. The agency established newspaper distribution offices to deliver different dailies this year, but has made a mere 130 million won in revenue. If that was a regular company, it would have to shut down immediately. Instead it asked for more subsidies of 35 billion won next year. That is unacceptable in every respect. It cannot waste taxpayer money.
Daily markets are controlled by subscribers. The government cannot and should not decide what should be done in the market. If the administration wants to interfere with the newspaper market, ignoring the ruling of the Constitutional Court and public opinion, it might as well hand out guidelines for newspapers, as was done under military rule. It should then stop talking about democracy or reform.
The administration should abolish such an anti-democratic bill and design a new newspaper rule, respecting the Constitutional Court’s ruling.
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