The Constitutional Court in June 2006 overturned a newspaper law passed in 2005, which contained some draconian articles. This marked a defeat for the party of President Roh Moo-hyun who sought to regulate a market dominated by the conservative press.
The Constitutional Court ruled on 29 June 2006 that the Act Governing the Guarantee of Freedom and Functions of Newspapers was contrary to freedom of the press and enterprise. “We do not see any particular danger because readers decide freely which newspaper they want to read,” the judges said in relation to an article that banned the country’s three principal dailies from holding more than 70% of market share. The government announced it would respect this decision.
The conservative press and in particular the three dailies Chosun Ilbo, Dong-a Ilbo and JoongAng Ilbo were behind the appeal to the Constitutional Court. They had been the object of far-reaching investigations by the Fair Trade Commission in 2006 in relation to accusations that they were offering their subscribers advantages which damaged free competition.
Elsewhere, in November an appeal court sentenced a journalist on MBC to a six-month suspended prison sentence, for broadcasting recordings of conversations between managers of the company Samsung. In August, judges in Seoul had found in favour of the journalist in the name of press freedom.
Finally, the law on national security still allows the government to censor publications or block access to websites favourable to North Korea.