Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Court Declares Telecom Law Unconstitutional

As reported in the Joongang Daily and widely in the local and international press, Korea's Constitutional Court yesterday ruled as unconstitutional a telecommunications law that had been used to punish the famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective) blogger Minerva.  Minerva's case had been widely publicized in Korea and was the subject of an earlier post in this blog.   It was viewed as an important case for freedom of expression and certainly highlighted the complex issues that Korea is facing in this area.
The Constitutional Court struck down the clause in the telecommunications law that had imposed a prison term of up to five years and a 50 million won fine ($43,500) for those who were deemed to spread false information on the Internet and mobile phones that would harm the public interest.In the 7-2 decision, the court said the clause was unconstitutional because it lacked a clear definition of “false” and “public interest” and imposed an excessively harsh punishment on violators.“The electronic communications law is unclear in meaning,” the court said in the ruling.
Civil liberties advocates said the ruling could be a significant milestone in preserving the right to freedom of expression.  However, as noted in The Financial Times, some conservative civic groups worried aloud that it might contribute to chaos in cyberspace by tolerating online invective and hate mail against public figures.

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