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[Editorial] New Administration and Media’s Watchdog Role

[Editorial] New Administration and Media’s Watchdog Role

Posted December. 28, 2007 03:54,   


President Roh Moo-hyun and the presidential secretariat have filed 22 criminal and civil suits against the media over the past five years. However, none of the cases have been decided in favor of the plaintiffs. They have lost five cases; three cases have been dismissed as having no grounds; and they have secretly dropped most of the remaining suits because they realized that they had no chance of winning those cases. The Roh administration’s attempt to gag the media with indiscreet lawsuits was a vicious attack unprecedented in democratic countries, which invited the failure of the government.

President Roh spearheaded the enactment of the law designed to control critical newspapers, even though it was unconstitutional. Moreover, he has pushed the so-called “Advanced Media Support System,” which ironically imposes restrictions on journalists and requires the shutdown of the pressrooms in government ministries and agencies. Although Cheong Wa Dae had the power to protest against the media in countless ways, it pursued a cunning strategy of filing law suits one after another to weaken the morale of the media.

The Roh administration’s media policies have turned out to be humiliating failures. The anti-newspaper law has been ruled unconstitutional, and the operation of the pressrooms will be normalized when the new government takes power. What’s more, the incumbent administration is now facing mounting criticism for abusing its right to file lawsuits against the media, as it has won none of the cases.

President Roh wasted too much national energy because of his anti-democratic views on the media. All the ministries and government agencies were forced to wage a “war against the media.” The Fair Trade Commission had to focus its energy on monitoring the newspaper market, which accounts for a mere 0.001 percent of GDP, and spent most of the budget allocated for the reward and punishment system on controlling newspaper companies. Of course, all these measures were carried out at the expense of taxpayers. The Roh administration, which denied the criticism of the media and the media’s watchdog role was eventually punished by the people in the December 19 presidential election.

A policy market exists between the government and the people in democratic countries. If the government’s policies are to be successful, they must perform well in the policy market. If the media’s watchdog role is in danger, the policy market cannot function properly. The incumbent administration’s failure can be attributed to its denial of this democratic market by excluding the media and attempting to open a direct communication channel with the public.

The next administration’s media policy must be founded on the realization that freedom of the press is a prerequisite for strengthening public welfare and making the country join the ranks of advanced nations. The Declaration of Windhoek, which served as the corner stone of the World Press Freedom Day (May 3), which the United National adopted in 1991, states that freedom of the press is essential for the development and maintenance of democracy and for the development of the economy. State affairs can be run successfully only when the government opens its arms to the constructive criticism of the media and acknowledges the importance of the media’s watchdog role.