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Rival parties on a collision course before the vote in plenary on the controversial Media Arbitration Act

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A partisan showdown loomed in the National Assembly on Monday when the ruling Democratic Party (DP), with a controlling number of parliamentary seats, was supposed to launch a controversial media law this week, which opposition parties and industry associations of the media industry were vehemently contested.

The revision of the Act on Press Arbitration and Remedies, etc.

for damage caused by press reports, which was passed by Parliament’s Culture Committee last week, is expected to be put to the final vote during the National Assembly plenary session on Wednesday.

The DP, which has an absolute majority in parliament, is expected to unilaterally pass the bill during the session.

Led by the DP as part of its broader vision to “reform” the media, the bill aims to greatly increase the media’s responsibility for false and fake news.

The main aim of the revision is to increase the amount of the penalty compensation rates for damages resulting from the publication of “willful” or “grossly negligent” false reports by up to fivefold in order to curb the spread of misleading news.

It will also require the media responsible for such messages to post corrections or remove problematic reports from intelligence services.

However, the bill has met with fierce opposition from opposition parties and media organizations, who denounce it as an attempt to dampen media that are critical of the government and party before the presidential elections next year.

The DP contradicts this argument and points to the exclusion of elected officials and large corporations from the possibility of claiming damages under the new law.

“It is hard to understand that the revision, criticized as a press-gagging law, will be ruled out if those with economic and political powers are excluded,” DP chairman Song Young-gil said last week.

Song added, “This law is essentially a harm-limitation law for the people who have suffered losses of enormous social influence through the press.”

The largest opposition People Power Party, the smaller Justice Party and media groups such as the National Union of Media Workers and the Journalists Association of Korea have campaigned against the revision attempt because they have a deterrent effect on aggressive reporting and gathering news about the powerful .

Opponents also point to the conspicuous exclusion of YouTube, which is often cited as the main source of conspiratorial fake news, from the revision. Some even argue that the DP’s legislative efforts are essentially aimed at preventing a repeat of the so-called Cho Kuk crisis, citing the concentrated media coverage that led to the resignation of former Justice Minister Cho Kuk in 2019.

Others also claim that the media law would effectively discourage journalists from critical and harsh reporting, wondering whether the corruption scandal involving former President Park Geun-hye and her long-time confidante Choi Soon-sil in late 2016 / early 2017 will ever come under toughened penalties was brought to light because Choi never served in public office.

“The media law is an attempt to silence, destroy and control the media. We ask people to rally and gather strength to prevent such a bad law from being passed, ”PPP chairman Lee Jun-seok said last week.

In the midst of the upcoming vote in plenary, the debate has also moved to the center of presidential policy, with key players raising their voices on the controversial media law.

Former attorney general Yoon Seok-youl, the PPP’s lead presidential candidate, held a press conference Sunday breaking the media law. “

MP Lee Nak-yon, former DP chairman who participated in the party’s presidential primary election, advocated tougher penalties, saying: “Damage and defamation caused by fake news deliberately or negligently produced by the media can never be complete to be healed.” (Yonhap)

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