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ACRC Announced Major Achievements of the Protection of Public Interest Reporters Act

Date
18-10-2021

ACRC Announced Major Achievements of
the Protection of Public Interest Reporters Act
for the Last 10 years

 

- The ACRC widely increased the number of laws applicable for public interest report from initial 180 laws to 471

- The ACRC greatly strengthened protection of reporters by introducing proxy reporting to allow people to report through a lawyer, and by creating the legal basis for the charges for compelling compliance

(30th Sep. 2021, ACRC)

Marking the 10th anniversary of the Protection of Public Interest Reporters Act, the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission (Chairperson : Jeon Hyun-hui, hereinafter ACRC) announced major achievements of the law at 2:00 PM 30th September at the Central Government Complex.

 

The Protection of Public Interest Reporters Act took effect on 30th September 2011 to encourage public interest reports by protecting and supporting public interest reporters who reported the acts detrimental to the health and safety of the people, the environment, etc.; and also to identify and prevent the acts detrimental to the public interest in an effective manner.

 

For the past 10 years, the ACRC has expanded the scope of reporter protection and enhanced its reporter protection mechanism with seven times of revision of the law. First, it increased the number of laws applicable for public interest report from initial 180 laws to 471.

 

* The number of applicable laws: 180 laws (in 2011) 279 laws (in 2016) 284 laws (in 2018) 467 laws (in 2020) 471 laws (in 2021)

Also, it introduced the system of proxy reporting, so that reporters can make reports through lawyers without disclosing their name. Furthermore, the punishment has been strengthened for those who disclosed the identity of reporters or who gave disadvantageous measures to the reporters.

 

 

Violations

Original Law

Revised Law(May 2018)

Disclosing identity of reporters, and/or disclosing the content of report before the completion of investigation

Imprisonment for not more than 3 years / fine not exceeding 30 million KRW(USD 25,000)

Imprisonment for not more than 5 years / fine not exceeding 50 million KRW(USD 42,000)

Dismissing and/or releasing reporters from their position, and/or not complying with decision to take protective measures

Imprisonment for not more than 2 years / fine not exceeding 20 million KRW(USD 17,000)

Imprisonment for not more than 2 years / fine not exceeding 30 million KRW(USD 25,000)

Disciplinary punishing reporters, obstructing report, and/or coercing cancellation of report

Imprisonment for not more than 1 year / fine not exceeding 1 million KRW(USD 850)

Imprisonment for not more than 2 years / fine not exceeding 20 million KRW(USD 17,000)

 

 

Along with this, if anyone is not compliant with the decision to take protective measures of the ACRC, the ACRC can impose charges for compelling compliance*. Also, it created a legal basis for the ACRC to request for the reduction of and exemption from responsibility of reporters who received disciplinary punishment or administrative disposition due to the illegal acts identified in relation with the report.

 

* Charge for compelling compliance: it can be repeatedly imposed up to twice a year until protective measures are implemented, and the amount shall be less than 30 million KRW(about 25,000 USD) each time.

 

Thanks to the stronger protection system for public interest reporters and higher awareness of the system, the number of reporter protection provided dramatically improved.

The ACRC has been active in protecting public interest reporters by 1) requesting reinstatement of reporters, 2) requesting disciplinary punishment and prosecution of the people who violated their duty to maintain confidentiality of public interest reporters, 3) taking protective measures for personal safety of reporters, and 4) asking for the reduction of and exemption from responsibility of the reporters.

 

For the first five years (20112015) after introducing the system, only 20 cases of reporter protection were accepted. However, in the following five years (20162020), the decisions for taking protection were made for 123 cases, up by 6 times.

 

In a press briefing, Chairperson Jeon Hyun-hui of the ACRC said, “public interest report and reporter protection system have encouraged citizens’ voluntary reporting. They have efficiently identified and prevented acts detrimental to the public interest in the blind spot of public authorities.”

 

She stated, “even though the ACRC increased the number of laws applicable to the public interest report to 471, there are many opinions that the scope should be expanded further. Also, there is room for improvement, such as punishment of the people who track down or instruct to track down reporters,” adding “the ACRC will continue its efforts to improve the reporter protection system, so that anyone can report without fear.”