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[Editorial] Roh’s Anti-Democratic Media Policy

Posted May. 23, 2007 03:19,   


Ahead of yesterday’s Cabinet meeting to pass the “Bill for Developed News Supporting System for Media” that would restrict the news coverage activities of journalists and close most of the press rooms at ministries and government agencies, President Roh Moo-hyun said, “As the bill is based on good intentions, let us put up with the inconvenience.” “We are trying to revamp the government’s system and practice to match the global standards,” Roh added. Although he claims “wriggling the neck of the media” to be a global practice, no other democratic government has this outrageous practice.

The Roh administration is calling the “unconstitutional infringement on the public`s right to know” an advanced press system, showing its self-deceptive and hypocritical attitude. In a speech commemorating the May 18 democratic movement, Roh criticized those who claim “the incompetence of democratic forces,” saying democratic forces have accomplished a $30,000 per capita GDP era and a society with blossoming creativity and liberty. Roh who boasted its contribution to the nation’s democratization even named the administration, “participatory government.”

However, Roh has run the government over the past four years exactly opposite to his slogans - “participation,” and “decentralization.” His leadership was “self-righteous and arrogant” and “evasive and lack of communication.” The shutdown of press rooms is the height of his “anti-democratic DNAs.” Despite this, all the concerned Cabinet members praised Roh’s move in chorus, including Prime Minister Han Duck-soo, Justice Minister Kim Sung-ho, and Culture and Tourism Minister Kim Jong-min. Like the president, like Cabinet members. However, the public will remember the names of the Cabinet members along with the trio who pushed the bill: Kim Chang-ho, head of the Government Information Agency, Yoon Seung-yong, spokesman of Cheong Wa Dae, and Yang Jung-chul, presidential publicity secretary.

The measure was introduced on that day after President Roh instructed his staff to study overseas press rooms and report it to him, saying, “Reporters stay cooped up in press rooms and conspire.” President Roh has also diminished the media’s watchdog role, saying, “We must wage a war against false reports.” The Roh administration has filed arbitration requests for media reports almost every other day since its inauguration four years ago. This is a good example that illustrates how the administration is managed – the “system is less important than cronyism and cronyism is less important than Roh’s remarks.”

Although President Roh claims to be a servant of the people, his self-righteous behavior is no less apparent to those of militarily dictators. Perhaps, his criticism against Park Chung-hee may have made Roh resemble him. Although the military government oppressed the media, it was at least wary of the media as it lacked legitimacy. However, the incumbent administration is not listening to what the public has to say because it arrogantly believes it is absolutely righteous. The president even looked down on the public opinion, saying, “The president does not necessarily have to accept and follow the public sentiment.” He even said, “If there are dissenting views over the execution or interpretation of the law, the elected authority should have the upper hand.”

However, the government, which is run by taxpayers’ money, is not the private property of Roh or the government. The government collected a total of 1,000 trillion won during Roh’s five-year tenure, which is equivalent to 22 million won per person. The media has been assigned to play the role of the watchdog by the public. In addition, the media is a medium that facilitates communication between the public and the government. The government’s attempt to break its link with the citizens reflects its obstinacy to manage state affairs as it pleases by blocking the ears of the media. Even government officials are saying the measure is giving up the government’s policy promotion.

The administration’s moral hazard and the malfunction of the government can be attributed to groupthink. The entire officialdom has been forced to stare only at the mouth of the president and repeat after him. President Roh may think dictatorship and self-righteousness belong only to military regimes, but turning his back towards the public’s demand and doing whatever he pleases regardless of what others say is also dictatorship and self-righteousness. The government, which has begun to wriggle the neck of the media while hiding its incompetent and unfashionable left-wing populism with “the mask of democracy,” should now take off its mask.