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First Constitutional Petition Filed Against Press Bill

Posted February. 21, 2005 22:14,   


A constitutional petition was submitted for the first time on the promulgated press bill that passed the National Assembly last month.

It was confirmed on Sunday that lawyer Chung In-bong and President Kang Byung-jin of Hwangyeong Geonseol Ilbo (Environmental Construction newspaper) submitted a written statement of constitutional petition on February 18, claiming that the press bill, which regulates that a newspaper whose market share exceeds 30 percent, or three dailies whose combined market share exceeds 60 percent, are deemed monopolistic, is violating the freedom of the press guaranteed in the Constitution.

The press bill passed the National Assembly plenary session on January 1 of this year, was promulgated on January 27, and was put into effect starting at the end of July.

On the written statement, Chung stated that “the main provisions of the press bill are an unfair exercise of government power, infringing on the freedom of the press (Constitution Article 21), equality (Article 11), and the law to protect human dignity (Article 10), which are guaranteed in the Constitution.”

The provisions that Chung asserted as being unconstitutional are:

-That daily newspaper organizations have to report their number of circulated copies, income from subscriptions and advertisements, and the overall number of shares issued to the Press Arbitration Commission (Press Bill Article 16).

-That a daily newspaper organization will be regarded as monopolistic if its newspaper market share exceeds 30 percent or three dailies whose combined market share exceeds 60 percent (Article 17).

-The establishment of a Press Arbitration Commission and Press Development Fund Organization. No support provided to those who have market domination (Article 33 and Article 34).

-The establishment of a daily newspaper distribution branch, which is financially supported with the money from the national treasury (Article 37).

In particular, they indicated that Article 16 “infringes upon the freedom of the press and publication in the Constitution as it requires all daily corporations to report their business matters to the national agency, resulting in subordination of the media to the government.”

Also, they stated that “The fact that the commissioner of the Press Arbitration Commission is to be nominated by the minister of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism is also unconstitutional, resulting in the press being shackled by the government.”

Concerning Article 17, they argue that “it also violates the principle of equality since it not only applies tighter restrictions than those stipulated by the existing Fair Trade Law (which put a 50-percent ceiling on the shares that can be owned by a single firm and a cap of 75 percent for three firms), but also violates the principles of equality since it disregards the notion of ‘market-dominating enterprise.’”

They also argued, concerning the establishment of a daily newspaper development fund, “The fact that it has been decided to be operated with contributions from the government is toxic since it threatens the freedom of the press. The media that receives support from such a fund will have a hard time criticizing the government.”

Chung asserted that “All law enactments should correspond with the notion of equality and justice. As the press bill was enacted after harsh attacks from the president and the prime minister, targeting the major players in the market as corrupt and anti-influential media organizations, their intentions are questionable.”

Furthermore, Chung indicated that The press bill justifies controlling and limiting the press by the government, allowing the government to directly inspect certain dailies’ operations and to support some of them financially.”

Chung said on the reason behind coming forward as a claimant, “As one of the citizens with the right to know, a person concerned with the freedom of the press, and a taxpayer, I have the authority and the obligation to monitor if the budget composed of the taxpayers’ money is wrongfully used, contradicting the ideals of a democratic government.”

President Kang said, “I’m keenly interested in the government’s unjust involvement or control concerning the freedom of the press since I’m in the daily newspaper field.”