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Dong-A Ilbo Files a Constitutional Petition against the Newspaper Law and the Press Arbitration Law

Dong-A Ilbo Files a Constitutional Petition against the Newspaper Law and the Press Arbitration Law

Posted March. 23, 2005 22:49,   


Dong-A Ilbo (president Kim Hak-joon), reporter Cho Yong-woo of Dong-A Ilbo’s Social News department, Yoo Jae-cheon, a reader of Dong-A Ilbo and also a Hallym University professor and head of the Hallym Institute of Natural Sciences, submitted an application Wednesday, contending the constitutionality of the Newspaper Law and the Press Arbitration Law.

The two laws were passed in the National Assembly on January 1 this year, promulgated on January 27, and will become effective from the end of July.

In the application, the Dong-A Ilbo and Cho claimed, “The main articles of the Newspaper Law and the Press Arbitration Law amount to improper exercising of law enforcement, violating the constitutional guarantees: freedom of press and publication (article 21 paragraph 1); freedom of vocation (article 15); and economic freedom (article 119 paragraph 1).”

Professor Yoo argued, “The Newspaper Law limits the freedom of readers to subscribe to their desired newspaper, and therefore violates the freedom of choice (deciding newspaper subscription) which is derived from Article 10 of the Constitution, the right to pursue happiness, and Article 21 paragraph 1, the right to know (the freedom of press).”

The Constitutional Court said on Wednesday that the constitutional petition submitted on February 18 by attorney Chung In-bong and others will be sent to the full bench of the court (Chief Justice Choo Sun-hoe) for deliberation on April 2.

Broadcasting and communications sectors monopolize the nation’s propagation lines, and public broadcasters levy fees on viewers. For this reason, civic groups and viewers are eligible to have a say in the programming or policy-making process of the service providers. However, legally regulating newspapers is an infringement of the basic rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Therefore, propriety of the Newspaper Law should be reviewed in accordance with the judgment standard which states that the purpose of legislation should be inevitable and its means minimal.

The Newspaper Law-

Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 15 state that a newspaper company cannot operate news agencies or media organizations. In today’s media, broadcasters’ convergence and media convergence via information technology are realized. Moreover, technological development has reduced the rarity of broadcasting. Therefore, prohibiting newspaper companies from running news agencies or media organizations curbs the variety of public opinion outlets and violates the rule of anti-excessiveness.

Article 16 obligates newspaper companies to publish their business operations information. Newspaper companies are not public businesses that rely on the national budget. This article infringes on the principle of equality and the freedom of corporate activities. It also violates the rule that prohibits excessive regulation.

Article 17 states that fines can be levied on a newspaper company with a market share of 30 percent or higher and three newspaper companies with a combined market share of 60 percent or higher. The purpose of this article appears to regulate the oligopoly of the three newspaper companies (Dong-A Ilbo, Chosun Ilbo, and JoongAng Ilbo). However, the purpose of fair trade regulations is to prevent oligopolists from manipulating the price of the papers by engaging in a tacit collective activity. Each of the three oligopolists has its own voice and tone, and does not have capital or personal connections.

Government intervention into newspapers should be restrained so that the larger public interest, democracy, is not undermined. The nation can provide support for newspapers under certain circumstances, but such support should be limited within a range that does not curb the neutral state of the papers.

Article 27 describes the “Newspaper Progress Committee” and allows national intervention into the public opinions market but does not provide any measures to control the committee, and thereby is unconstitutional. In addition, the Newspaper Progress Committee rules out support for the oligopolists. Deciding financial support for newspapers based on the tone of the papers amounts to discrimination and is therefore unconstitutional.

Press Arbitration Law-

This law allows the Press Arbitration Commission to deliberate whether a press report infringes on the legal rights of the nation, society, or individual, to advise the press to make corrections, and to announce the discussed points to the public. This is unconstitutional because it allows post-screening of press reports. In particular, applications calling for corrections can be submitted by those other than the offended, for instance, a civic group. This may further constrict the freedom of newspapers.

Soo-Hyung Lee sooh@donga.com