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[Editorial] Participatory Government’s Infringement on the Freedom of Knowledge

[Editorial] Participatory Government’s Infringement on the Freedom of Knowledge

Posted January. 12, 2005 23:03,   


The government’s recent passage of regulation on restricting access to state secrets has stirred up heated debates. The government reformed the “Regulation on the Cooperative Duties of the National Assembly and Parties” last December, effectively barring lawmakers from inquiring on military, diplomatic, and North Korean issues and audit sessions when needed.

State secrets are usually excluded from the list of such issues meriting the citizen’s freedom of knowledge, but the present move places too much power in the hands of the government in determining what constitutes classified information, thus clashing with the aforementioned freedom of knowledge.

When nations face a clash between the two antitheses of “protection of state secrecy” and “the right to know,” the decision on whether or not the issue constitutes a state secret is determined by the judicial court, not the government. This is to prevent the administration from using the pretext of state secrecy to limit citizens’ freedom of knowledge.

Under these standards, it is questionable if the current regulation has been made in pursuit of the national interest. Military secrets, for example, are estimated to number 220,000 for second-tier classified information and 360,000 for third-tier information. Hasty and indiscriminate decisions in determining the status of military secrets may be a problem, but a large issue lies in the fact that under these adverse circumstances, the power to refuse classified data, as wielded by the government, will inevitably lead to an infringement of citizens’ freedom of knowledge.

The “open briefing policy” adopted by the government in September 2003 had been pursued despite dissenting voices from the media, but it was all too soon proven that the regulation was a blatant limitation on the freedom of knowledge. The briefing sessions as promised by the government were simply pathetic, and as direct reporting at the offices was banned, reporters had to rely on phone interviews.

It is of interest to know how the government will respond to the claims that the present regulations have been made to block the free reporting of the press.

The present regulation is projected to follow the same path. The government’s policies in regards to the media and the perceptions of the “right to know” should not lean towards a shutdown of dissenting voices. One could hardly call that a “participatory government.”