Nov. 20  2019
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A Great Step Forward to [Anti-censorship] on the Internet

Statement of Jinbonet

Source  :  Jinbonet

1. A new Internet era has just dawned in South Korea. According to a recent report, Internet users in Korea have reached 16 million. It means most Korean people can use internet.

Now many Korean netizens can express their opinions on policy issues through government websites, though we admit that the problem of widening economical and regional gap in accessing Internet has been aggravated. This situation could be regarded as realization of the Internet's potential as a tool for democracy, which we have expected from the inception of the Internet.
As a communications medium, the Internet is a far more democratic and effective tool compared to other mass media in that every citizen can convey and publicize his or her opinions to policy-makers and other people without having thier views edited or filtered.
We have yet to make a decision on whether to transform the potential of the Internet into real democratic power or just give it up for another regulating tool for bureaucrats. A wave of Korean netizens' active and voluntary participation in online demonstrations so far against the proposed legislation on Internet censorship can be translated into an undeniable proof that Korean people are adamantly opposed to the legislation.

2. Civic groups and netizens in Korea have every reason to protest against the proposed "Legislation for Communication Decency", which includes the Internet rating system proposed by The Korean Ministry of Information & Communication", a revised version of 'Law for Enhancing Communications Network Usage', because establishment of new laws and governmental organizations to censor and monitor online media and communications could seriously undermine the basic rights of Korean citizens.

There are lots of controversial issues regarding the proposed 'Communications Decency Law'
Firstly, the proposed legislation comes from a bureaucratic mindset that a special regime regulating online activities independent of current laws needs to be established. We define the legislation as censorship and infringement on free speech. It might fasten procedures monitoring and prosecuting illegal online contents but leaves room for serious violation in basic human rights. The legislation could bring about a situation where every Internet user is regarded as potential computer crime suspect and government's censorship on the Internet becomes a daily routine.
Secondly, the proposed legislation includes introduction of Internet contents rating system. The legislation stipulates Information Communication Ethics Committee should be given all authorities to set rating guidelines, control and monitor the execution of the rating system. This centralized power will work as 'censorship' by the government, disguised as 'self-control'. A ruling on Aug 25th by Seoul Administrative Court that suspending decision on film rating could be considered unconsitutional, has a significant meaning related to this case.
3. Anti-online censorship protest has been the embodiment of public opinion on this questionable legislation. Our efforts have been very sucessful so far. The debate on the proposed Legislation for Communication Decency has been so well publicized that MIC(Ministry of Information and Communication) had no choice but to change the original scenario. A Plan on Reflecting Citizens Opinion proposed in haste by MIC definitely shows government officials are starting to get worried.

Since the first online protest on Aug 20th, netizens have voluntarily participated in [Anti-cencorship] online protest and placed hundreds of [anti-censorship] postings against the legislation on the MIC bulletin board. But instead of trying to listen and respond to worried voices from citizens, MIC blamed the protest participants s 'hooligan' and 'ugly Korean' through newspaper articles. Furthermore, MIC criticized its website shutdown on last Saturday as hackers' attack controlled by online protestors and cancelled the announcement the next day, which proves MIC itself is not sure of the reason of the shutdown. It even condemned our legal online protest as 'cyber terrorism', threatening to prosecute the participants on charges of 'interrupting public service'

What is hacking and cyber terrorism? In this new era of Internet, citizens are more likely to express their opinions on pending issues through government websites. The government should be ready and prepared to modestly accept the opinions from netizens. MIC's attitude, however, has been inconsistent with the 'Electronic Government' plan which the governmen has been loudly advertising.

There is nothing new in the so-called 'A Plan on Reflecting Citizens Opinion' proposed by MIC. The contents of the plan can also be found in the new legislation proposed on Aug 19th. It is supposed to have been designed to get rid of 'unnecessary noises' from mass media and citizens. But The plan goes nowhere near satisfying demands from Korean civic groups. The civic groups have already noticed that the poison pill of the legislation is not changed at all even though some controversial parts such as 'bad user management' and the ambiguous 'information harmful to youngsters' clauses have been modified.

4. We solemnly warn MIC of its bureaucratic and undemocratic attitude. MIC should be ready to accept public opinions expressed through online media. It should not criticize online protestors as criminals. Also MIC should actively participate in debates on the current issues without just neglecting opinions from civic groups and netizens. The one-sided attitude of the 'Electronic Government' will only increase the nation's worries over
MIC's power centralization over online censorship under the proposed Legislation for Communication Decency.

5. We appreciate netizens' voluntary and active participation in the fight against online censorship. The battle for free speech has just begun. By all means, we are going to fight off MIC's attempt to control the cyberspace to the end. Netizens' voluntary and active participation in the online protest ensures our victory. What the Internet has provided to us is only 'possibility'. We're ready to make every effort to realize the possibility, which will ultimately help our endless progress towards true democracy.

Sep 2, 2000

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Labor | Science & ICT | Society | Human Rights
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