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Defense Ministry Now Off Limits to Reporters

Posted December. 18, 2007 05:25,   


The Ministry of National Defense (MND) has fueled public anger by banning the entry of all reporters to the ministry located in Yongsan, Seoul beginning this week after it closed down its pressroom last Saturday.

An official from the Ministry’s Public Affairs Management Bureau said yesterday, “The ministry will not allow any reporters to enter the premises and buildings of the ministry, including those who are in charge of reporting from the ministry. Following the government’s plans to advance the system to support reporting, they can only enter the `integrated briefing room` located in the annex building behind the old ministry building.”

He added, “Reporters can visit the integrated briefing room only when guided by a staffer of the MND. Beginning this week, they can enter the building only during the working hours of the MND, which are between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Interviews with MND officials are only allowed in the integrated briefing room.”

Before the changes were made, reporters could enter the MND without any restrictions and there were also no limits to interview hours and places. In response to the changes, people both in and out of MND have expressed concerns that the MND has virtually blocked the access of reporters using the government’s policy as a pretext.”

A well-informed military source said, “I am worried that the latest changes may give our military a bad name because the press will be uneasy about the excessive restrictions.”

Meanwhile, members of the National Assembly Defense Committee--Representatives Hwang Jin-ha and Song Young-sun of the Grand National Party and Representative Kim Song-ja of the Democratic Party--met Defense Minister Kim Jang-soo yesterday and demanded that the MND remove restrictions on reporting as well as to the entry of reporters.

Kim replied, “As a government body, the MND has no other choice but to follow the government’s policies.”

Ten reporters who were formerly residing in the MND have been staging an all-night vigil in protest of the MND’s decision to close down the pressroom. They also visited Kim yesterday to argue against the latest restriction measures and to urge Kim to secure more freedom for reporters.

Kim said, “Although the `integrated briefing room` may not be the best idea, it is a viable alternative. I ask for your cooperation.”

The pressroom is no longer functional as electricity and Internet access to the room has been completely cut off. No press release has been provided by the ministry and other related bodies on military issues.