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[Editorial] Roh Administration’s War Against the Press

Posted June. 01, 2007 03:21,   


The ruling Uri Party helped to clear up the mystery behind President Roh Moo-hyun’s declaration of “war against the media,” with less than nine months left before the end of his tenure. “The new confrontation over the control of the media’s news coverage activities will help give (Roh) the upper hand in the political scene, and prevent the lame duck phenomenon by linking and expanding the confrontation with the media in the war against the three major newspaper companies – Dong-A Ilbo, Chosun Ilbo, and JoongAng Ilbo, and expand pro-Roh forces,” according to the “Opinion on Press Room Integration,” a document that Rep. Song Young-gil, secretary general of the Uri Party, was looking at on Wednesday in a meeting of the party`s senior members.

Although both Cheong Wa Dae and Song said, “The document was not produced by the Uri Party,” nobody believes them. The document contains information on the incumbent administration’s media strategies designed to amass supporters by pushing the citizens to takes sides, while labeling the mainstream newspapers as the main enemy. This coincides exactly with the repeated remarks that Roh’s confidents made in private gatherings; Tension with the three conservative newspapers helps pro-government forces gain political ground.

From the very beginning, the Roh administration has been disinterested in the people’s right to know or the media’s right to inform the public. They view the press as a means to political gain. The document even recommends postponing the integration of briefing rooms. It says that although the restriction of reporting activities and criticizing major newspapers is a right move in principle, a wrongful approach was taken in executing it. This is what Roh claims to be an advanced system to support news coverage activities.

“I am a sayuksin (six martyred ministers) for reforming the press,” Yang Jeong-cheol, presidential secretary for Communications, said in a current affair radio program. Yang is the one who spearheaded the press control measure from behind the scenes. Although Yang is a mere assistant who has never received any formal education on journalism, he is jeering at the Supreme Court’s precedent. The people’s right to know, including the access to the government information, must be guaranteed as it is related to freedom of expression as stipulated in the Constitution.

“The heart of the matter is not the closure of amenities for journalists but the closure of information by officialdom,” said a spokesperson of the Korean Association of Newspapers (KAN). “Journalists will not make concessions because we have to find out what the government is hiding,” said a spokesman of the 35 KAN Seoul district offices. This is exactly why the press cannot give up the freedom of the press, no matter how the Roh administration views it.