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Roh Voiced Criticism against Media Again

Posted August. 03, 2003 21:43,   


Controversy is arising in the wake of President Roh Moo-hyun blaming the media for its coverage of a scandal concerning his close aide. The president has decided to take a firm stand against it, saying that he would not tolerate the arrogance of the privileged press.

During a public debate on state affairs with government officials, including ministers and vice ministers, Saturday, he said, "The press does not function well. Its coverage is not based on fair agendas, correct information, and unbiased logic. It is not providing a forum for public opinion."

The president went on to add that he would not tolerate the arrogance of the media, which overrides and secretly investigates family members, saying that it is a matter of justice.

In an attempt to help correct this, he said he would risk conflicts in his relationship with the media.

"My view on the media is not just based on my own opinion as president. I would become involved with this issue even if it were only my private opinion as a citizen of this country," Mr. Roh said. "The conflict between power and the media stems from a clash of values."

"If I succumbed to or compromised to such arrogance of the media, I would not be qualified as the leader of a nation. I will not allow ministers to step down because of the media’s unfair bashing," Roh said. He also ordered ministers and vice ministers to take a firm stand against wrong and unfair media coverage.

He said that the government could and should take action against illogical media reports. "As for reports assessing the government, contradiction and legal action are possible. We could even bring a civil action suit against very unfair and discriminating reports. We need an agency in charge of such legal actions. Currently, we do not have such an agency," Mr. Roh continued.

He added that though the government can request media outlets to improve their behavior regarding their rights to editorials, the right to personnel affairs and media governance, it has put off the request. "We concluded that it is not our role and rather it is better for us to wait and see, letting the media, civic groups and the National Assembly do their part," he said. "The media should observe fair competition in the media market all the more because it is a business for public good. There is a saying that the media should be entrusted to the choice of the public. However, it should be done after fair competition is guaranteed. Decisive legal actions should be taken."

With regard to the president’s remarks, Park Jin, spokesman for the opposition Grand National Party (GNP), said, "The legal action that the president mentioned against the media runs counter to democracy and the principle of freedom of the press," calling on the president to stop his attempts to oppress the media.

"Freedom of the press is the foundation of democracy and a media that cannot criticize power is not a real media. If the president, obsessed with a delusion of persecution by the media, suppressed and prevented the media’s criticism, his behavior would not be forgiven later in Korean history," the GNP spokesman said in a statement.

Young-Hae Choi yhchoi65@donga.com