[EDITORIALS]Denials on Press Probe Defy Logic

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[EDITORIALS]Denials on Press Probe Defy Logic

Oh Hong-keun, the head of the Government Information Agency, held a press conference Saturday where he criticized media companies' reports about the tax probes by the National Tax Service and the anti-trust measures by the Fair Trade Commission for misleading the public. We - the press - want to point out that what we criticize are the flaws in the investigation methods and suspicious procedures employed by the National Tax Service and Fair Trade Commission. We want to clarify that we never would criticize fair application of the law itself.

The GIA repeated the argument of the NTS that the taxes were levied on promotional copies exceeding 20 percent of the paid circulation by counting them as taxable entertainment expenses. Yet, such a practice is not supported by the tax law. The GIA should be reminded of the precedents that the amount of back taxes to be paid were at times lowered to 10 percent of the demand by administrative litigation. Therefore, the arguments of the NTS and the FTC have not been confirmed , and their actions can still be subjects of legal and administrative dispute. The government spokesperson committed an error by defending these actions, taken by individual administrative agencies.

Mr. Oh insisted that management of media firms and freedom of the press are two separate matters and that collecting back taxes is not an attempt to tame the press. Yet, who would believe, in his words, that the tax investigation has nothing to do with gagging press freedom when the newspaper companies are pressed to the point of death or survival under an enormous amount of back taxes. Moreover, the government demanded that media companies stop expressing dissatisfaction and instead appeal to administrative litigation, hinting its logic to gag the press.

Until now, the government emphasized that agencies made decisions independently to investigate newspapers, and there were no discussions within the administration nor any report to the Blue House. Yet, the GIA has stepped forward suddenly to defend NTS and FTC, arguing that it is troublesome for them to respond to the press criticism separately. This explanation by the government is nothing more than a lame excuse.

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