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FTC`s dangerous thinking

Posted April. 10, 2001 18:54,   


It is quite irrational and even dangerous that the Fair Trade Commission blocked news coverage by the Dong-a Ilbo reporter for the reason that he had written articles critical of the government`s plan to revive the newspaper notification system. From Saturday, the FTC pasted up notices reading ``Off-limits for the Dong-a Ilbo reporter`` on the doors of its related offices and prevented the reporter from entering. The FTC took down the notices on Monday afternoon, as the matter was developing into a serious controversy. This newspaper carried a series of articles from Feb. 17 reporting that the government was considering reviving the newspaper notification plan and taking issue with various problems with the enforcement of the notification system and the commission`s maneuvers to enforce the system. At this point, the FTC showed a hypersensitive reaction to the articles.

However, this is the first time that a news reporter was prevented from accessing news sources. Under past regimes, even military ones, there was never an incident in which a news reporter was forbidden from covering news on the grounds that he wrote stories critical of the government in power. The latest incident is no more than an anachronistic way of thinking and was clearly designed to oppress media outlets by blocking news coverage. At the same time, this poses a grave challenge to the people`s right to be informed and constitutes a serious infringement upon freedom of the press. More alarming is the fact that the decision to block this particular reporter was not made by working-level officials but rather at a meeting of senior FTC officials, presided over by the deputy commission chairman. It is incomprehensible that the commission would convene a staff meeting and go so far as to take organized action to obstruct news coverage. At this point, we are inclined to ask for the government`s viewpoint as far as the mass media is concerned, being that it is engaged in such an emotional and retaliatory action against a paper considered critical of the government.

If the FTC considers that our newspaper articles have any problems, it should give due clarification and ask for corrections if any mistakes were found. If it feels that this step is too troublesome, the commission may resort to the Press Arbitration Commission or other related institutions to address its grievances. The FTC chairman mad the excuse that he had no knowledge of the process but his statement is hardly reliable. If he was not aware of the commission`s decision to obstruct the news coverage, there is a grave problem with the organization itself. And if the chairman lied, his integrity and qualifications for his position must be questioned. We fear that this style of administration by the FTC will be reflected in its promotion of the newspaper notification plan. As a matter of fact, the commission blocked opinions submitted by some members of the deregulation reform committee. The vice commission chairman has announced a policy to enforce the notification system despite objections raised by the committee members.

The main function of the FTC is to monitor and rectify any unfair business transactions. Nonetheless, the commission itself is involved in unfair activities regarding this newspaper. We urge that the question of newspaper notification be tackled in an atmosphere where reasonable procedures and discussions are respected and freedom of speech is guaranteed.