“South Korea’s ruling party is set to revise a media law that will silence news organizations.”
The Asahi Shimbun stated as above in its editorial published on Wednesday and criticized that the most detrimental effect of the amendment bill of the Act on Press Arbitration and Remedies, etc. for Damage Caused by Press Reports would be to allow the courts to order heavy damages on media outlets. “It is never easy to determine accuracy or prove actual malice of news reports,” the editorial argued. “Fake news is out of control not only in Korea but also across the globe. Some countries try to regulate it by law. Nonetheless, the amendment should not discourage journalism,” commented the newspaper. The Asahi Shimbun further condemned the Moon Jae-in administration and the ruling Democratic Party, stating they “pompously proclaim that they have succeeded to the heritage of democratic movements that fought against military dictatorship” but “employ reckless political tactics that undermine universal values by utilizing the power of majority as a powerful ruling party.”
The U.S. State Department replied to The Dong-A Ilbo’s request for a comment on South Korea’s media reform bill, saying that the right to freedom of expression, including in the media, and access to information are the backbone of a thriving and stable democracy. “The Biden administration has regularly emphasized the importance of independent media and its primary role in facilitating an open exchange of information and ideas in a free society,” the State Department said.
Furthermore, in an interview with The Dong-A Ilbo, Dan Kubiske, the co-chair of the international community at the Society of Professional Journalists in the U.S., mentioned the likelihood of media self-censorship in the event that the bill passes the National Assembly. “The obscurity of the bill will risk the country’s freedom in all aspects of people’s lives. To my knowledge, the passage of the bill would mark the very first case in democratic countries, leading to adverse ripple effects,” Mr. Kubiske said, expressing concern.
The U.K.-based international human rights organization Article 19 also joined in the concern over the controversial media reform bill, arguing for withdrawal of the bill. Commenting on the bill on Tuesday, Article 19 stated that this bill “would severely infringe the rights to freedom of expression and information and discourage critical reporting by the media” and “is inconsistent with South Korea’s human rights obligations and international standards on freedom of expression.” Established in 1987, Article 19 pointed out that “the vague and over-broad [definition of ‘false or manipulated reporting’] would likely have a chilling effect on the media”; “a maximum penalty of five times the actual financial loss is clearly excessive and by definition disproportionate to the harms suffered”; and “the over-broad nature of the proposed bill could impose penalties on speech protected under international law.”