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Oppression of Press Freedom Resembles Military Dictatorship

Oppression of Press Freedom Resembles Military Dictatorship

Posted May. 26, 2007 03:38,   


It was confirmed Friday that government agencies, exempted from recent measures to consolidate existing press rooms, are planning to move briefing rooms and news transmission rooms to outside their headquarters in an attempt to block journalists’ entry to their offices.

Analysts point out that this is a cunning way to restrict the freedom of the press and is designed to limit journalists’ contact with government officials. Even officials of the concerned ministries are puzzled with the relocation plan.

When the government announced its measure to consolidate press rooms on Tuesday, the existing briefing rooms and news transmission rooms in Cheong Wa Dae, the Defense Ministry, the Public Prosecutors` Office, The National Police Agency (NPA) and Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) were said to be maintained in consideration of the nature of their work and locations.

However, the Defense Ministry is looking for a relocation site as it has decided to relocate its briefing room and news transmission room, which is currently on the first floor of its headquarters, to outside of its building.

“Due to the sensitivity of military and security-related projects, the Defense Ministry was exempted from the government’s measure on the condition of relocating its briefing room and news transmission room to outside the building,” an official of the Defense Ministry said. “This is the government’s follow-up measure to block reporters’ access to (government) offices,” another official stated.

The Defense Ministry is planning to build a new briefing room and news transmission room in its public service center located within the compound by August 2007, when the consolidation measure is to take place.

“This is an absurd idea, as it attempts to turn the Defense Ministry correspondents into so-called ‘three-room reporters’ who can only access the press room, the press office and the toilet. This is something that only existed during military dictatorship,” a military official said.

Although the FSC will not relocate its briefing and news transmission room located on the third floor of the headquarters, it is planning to introduce a measure which would strictly restrict the access of reporters to its offices.

The FSC correspondents have been allowed to have one-on-one interviews with any officials of the FSC, including directors via appointments, without gaining permission first from a publicity official.

“Although we considered moving the press room to the first floor, we decided not to relocate it in consideration of inconveniences it will cause to people. Although we are not listed on the press room consolidation list, it is necessary to follow the government’s intent of blocking reporters,” an official of the FSC said.

The NPA will also soon decide whether it will relocate the briefing room and news transmission room situated on the second floor of its headquarters to the outside of the building after consulting with the Government Information Agency (GIA). However, the NPA has yet to secure its relocation site.

“Those are appropriate measures drawn up by each ministry in line with the objective of the measures to stop illegal entry into working space. The GIA has not given specific instructions regarding the relocation,” an official of the GIA said.

“Why would government ministries take measures that will trigger criticism and inconvenience from both inside and outside of the ministries? They are likely following some implicit instructions given from the top,” said a government official who requested to remain anonymous.