South Korean Activist Indicted for Sharing Tweet
Freedom House is deeply concerned by the indictment of photographer and activist Park Jung-geun on January 31 for violating South Korea’s National Security Law and sharing a Twitter posting from the North Korean government with his followers, in what he says was an attempt at satire. Freedom House calls for Park’s immediate release – his arrest is a clear violation of international freedom of expression standards. Jung-geun faced scrutiny in 2011 for reposting “propaganda” about then-leader Kim Jong-Il and subsequently had his photography studio raided, materials confiscated and faced interrogation.
International human rights groups have voiced concerns that freedom of expression in South Korea has declined since 2008 protests. Despite its impressive transition to democracy over the past two decades and its reputation as one of most wired countries in the world, in 2011, South Korea was rated “Partly Free” in both Freedom House’s Freedom of the Press and Freedom on the Net reports. South Korea engages in substantial censorship of North Korea-related content, including blocking access to the government-run Twitter account, whose postings Park forwarded. Defamation remains a criminal offense, and several laws have been used to restrict freedom of expression in traditional media and online communications. The National Security Law, enacted in 1948, sentences violators to up to seven years in prison for “praising or expressing sympathy with the North Korean regime.” In recent years, the law has been used with increased frequency - more than 150 people were interrogated in 2010 on suspicion of violating the National Security Law.