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“Shutting Down the Press Is Equivalent to Depriving People of Their Basic Rights”

“Shutting Down the Press Is Equivalent to Depriving People of Their Basic Rights”

Posted May. 22, 2007 03:22,   


The government is planning to pass a “Press Support Advancement Initiative” under which briefings and article delivery rooms run by government offices will be merged and abolished; without prior permission, journalists will be banned from visiting ministry offices. Many people are responding to this plan with harsh criticism, saying it is an infringement of freedom of speech.

The Government Information Agency said on May 21, “A final decision will be made and announced after a cabinet meeting presided by the President in regard to the issue.” The initiative, if passed, will merge the current 37 briefing and article delivery rooms to three, which will be located only at the Central Government Complex in Jongno-gu, Seoul, and in the government complexes in Gwacheon and Daejeon.

The existing 14 briefing rooms located in the provincial police agencies will be converged to a press room at the police headquarters in Seodaemun-gu, and the justice ministry and the prosecutors’ office will have only one press room. Furthermore, visits to the government offices or interviews with public officials will be allowed through prior appointments only.

It has been four months after the President ordered during a cabinet meeting in January, “Look into the prevalence of articles being fabricated by reporters and report to me.” In addition, lawmakers from all but the Uri party were united in their criticism of the move as “a new form of media control,” or “an authoritarian notion.” Na Gyeong-won, a spokesperson for the Grand National Party, said, “It is reminiscent of the Fifth Republic and the move is despotic, as if the administration is trying to rid people of their freedom of speech.” Yang Hyeong-il, a spokesperson of the New Party for Centrist Reform and Alliance, said, “The administration should stop this plan, which is obviously anachronistic.” Kim Jeong-hyeon, a vice spokesperson for the Democratic Party, said, “This plan illustrates the distorted view of President Roh and Cheong Wa Dae toward the media.”

Academia and the media are concerned that the people’s right to know and the media’s supervisory role will be greatly undermined by the plan. The Korean Association of Newspapers and the Korea News Editor’s Association in a joint statement, wrote, “The government’s anti-democratic measure will deprive the Korean people of their basic rights.”