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The ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) are seeking to revise the Act on Press Arbitration to impose punitive damages on media outlets and reporters that produce so-called “fake news.”

The DPK had planned to pass the bill at the National Assembly’s plenary session on August 30th. However, due to strong resistance from the opposition and civic groups, it has been postponed to September 27th.

The U.N. Human Rights body has also pointed out the bill may be in violation of international human rights law and infringe on the freedom of opinion and expression.

Irene Khan, a U.N. special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression, delivered an open letter to the Korean government stating concerns over the proposed revision.

The letter was made public on the website of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Wednesday.

The letter states the proposed revisions do not meet the criteria to be a fair law, in terms of legality, necessity and proportionality. If the amendments are put in place, they could severely restrict the rights to freedom of information and expression of the media.

It further reiterated the government’s obligation to respect and protect the rights to freedom of opinion and expression under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), acceded by South Korea in April 1990.

“Article 19 protects everyone’s right to opinion without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers and through any media,” the letter read.

“In particular, I want to stress that, under international human rights law, the prohibition of false information is not in itself a legitimate aim to restrict freedom of expression. In effect, people have the right to express ill-founded opinions or statements and indulge in parody or satire if they so wish.”

With the country’s next presidential elections to be held in March next year, the progression of the bill will alter the political atmosphere of South Korea.

Team Eastern Interest
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