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Growing Criticism Over Culture Ministry`s Restriction On Journalists

Growing Criticism Over Culture Ministry`s Restriction On Journalists

Posted March. 17, 2003 22:12,   


The government`s new media guidelines are drawing criticism on the ground that they are likely to infringe on people`s rights to know and be misused to control the press.

The Association of Korean newspaper, media, and editors Mar.17 issued a statement on the “new media guidelines” released by the Culture Ministry, insisting that the government`s expedient measures to inform the public of only what the government wants the public to know are likely to lead to the government`s abuse of power and a more stringent control on the media.

The statement pointed out that regardless of the government`s lack of providing accurate information, the government is trying to unilaterally limit the public demand for information, and which is highly likely to bring about a risk of distracting the public attention by distorting information.

The Grand National Party`s special committee on media (chairman Ha Soon-bong) said in its public statement, “Culture and Tourism Minister Lee Chang-dong`s announcement that practically closes press rooms and demands to use real names of news sources followed by the government`s new restriction on journalists` activities and war against misreporting has an intention of taming the media.” The GNP`s special committee decided to convene a parliamentary culture and tourism committee and launch a probe into suspicions of the government`s intention to control the press.

The Citizens United for Better Society, a civic group in Korea, also criticized the Culture Ministry`s new media guidelines in a statement by saying, “The Culture Ministry in charge of the press is trying to allow reporters to cover only reports on the President Roh`s government achievements. We seriously concern that the Culture Minister`s such a view on media reform may have a negative impact on other ministries` public relations` activities down the road.”

The Culture Ministry`s new media guidelines announced Mar.14 included that reporters are not allowed to enter the ministry`s offices without certain procedures for the first time and government officials are asked to inform the ministry that they are interviewed. Since the inauguration of the new government, Chung Wa Dae had already announced similar measures such as banning unofficial contacts between presidential aides and journalists, making requests for interviews in advance, and introducing a regular briefing system.

Meanwhile, with mindful of the public criticism over the Culture Ministry`s new media guidelines, President Roh said, “Public government officials should take full responsibility for protecting their public duties and crucial information from being leaked to the media. I hope that the new media guidelines will not be understood as the government`s interference in the press.”

“The priority should be placed on the people`s rights to know. Therefore, there should be an open forum on a regular basis to gather the public opinions.” Chung Wa Dae spokesperson Song Kyung-hee quoted the president as telling his senior secretaries and aides in a meeting.

Seung-Heon Lee ddr@donga.com