The National Assembly speaker and representatives of the ruling and the opposite parties had an urgent meeting on Sunday to discuss the revised press arbitration bill. It was to coordinate different opinions in the last minute after the leadership of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea announced to push forward with the bill on Monday. There is a growing voice within the ruling party that point out the issue of the ‘press punishment bill,’ but party leaders have not changed their plan to push forward with it today. The main opposition People Power Party plans to strongly oppose it by starting a filibuster session, which forecasts extreme confrontations in the September plenary session.
Overseas reporters voiced their concerns on the bill as well. “Why are you pushing forward with the bill when 99% of domestic and overseas media are against it? Aren’t one-person media the major source of fake news?” criticisms followed in a session between foreign journalists and the ruling party’s special committee for media reform on Friday. A poor legislative process of the government and the ruling party was revealed, too. “The revised bill is naturally applied to the overseas press,” said Kim Yong-min, head of the special committee, even the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the authority of the process, already announced that the bill would not be applied to the foreign media. It is proof that the government and the ruling party are sticking to work only to pass the bill, failing to coordinate internal opinions that they should have done in advance.
“What do they know about our situation? They know nothing,” said ruling party leader Song Young-gil when the Reporters without Borders, an international press monitoring organization, issued a statement calling for withdrawal of the revised bill on Tuesday. “They underestimated media experts around the world,” said the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers CEO. “The revised bill harms Korea’s global reputation.” The dispute between the ruling party representative and an international organization reveals immaturity of the process. Moreover, the government and the ruling party have used the press freedom index announced by the RSF to promote Korea as “country which protest the highest level of freedom of speech in Asia.” Not condoning the RSF’s criticism is a typical double standard.
There is a growing voice also within the ruling party that argues to adopt a prudent stance on this issue, which is probably because of the concerns and criticisms of the global community. The freedom of speech is a basic right of citizens that cannot be swayed by a government or a political party. It is not time to stick with ‘political engineering’ that only depends on pro-Moon supporters that puts pressure on passing the revised bill.