[EDITORIALS]Seeking a Return of 'Tame' Media?

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[EDITORIALS]Seeking a Return of 'Tame' Media?

Representatives of the Millennium Democratic Party seem to know no limits in their verbal abuse of the media. Since the end of last week when the National Tax Service and the Fair Trade Commission released the results of their investigations, the verbal attacks by lawmakers became even more chilling because of the hatred and antagonism underlying their words. Words fail us when we see denunciations like "the last dictatorial power" or "anti-reform, anti-democracy, and anti-unification forces." If the arrogance of "whatever I do is always right" that was formed during the years of fighting for democracy has made them unable to tolerate criticism, it is unfortunate both for them and for the media. Such statements are pouring in unison from the ruling party as if by prior agreement, leading to suspicions that this is an elaborate campaign planned at the center of political power.

Let us look into the executive meeting of the Millennium Democratic Party held Monday. Adviser Noh Mu-hyun, who heralded the attack on the media after President Kim Dae-jung declared his "media reform," emphasized head-to-head confrontation with the media for the sake of upholding what he called social democracy. He said, "The media has remained the last stronghold of dictatorship." Last February, he aroused public criticism when he said, "We shouldn't refrain from declaring war against the media," and "I agree that the media is like an organization of gangsters." Last Saturday, during an advisers' meeting of the Millennium Democratic Party at the Blue House, Mr. Noh said, "The conservative media is a force hampering reform and is anti-unification, and they have been blocking historical progress." Why is he berating the media as gangsters and a dictatorial power? We cannot help but ask how a political leader in a democratic society can decry the media as being undemocratic and repress them.

Lee Hae-chan, a policymaker of the Millennium Democratic Party, is quoted as saying, "The success or failure of the tax probe will be determined when people clearly understand that certain media companies are willing to do anything for their egoistic interests." The statement sounds as if the government is going to drive media companies to the edge, until their existence is threatened, so that the media companies would be forced to do something wrong. Then they can push further for media reform on the pretext of media misbehavior. Statements by both Mr. Noh and Mr. Lee sound as though the objective of the tax probes into media companies lies not in inducing transparent management, but in winning a war against the media.

Representative Kim Min-seok of the ruling party complained, "We must pursue all cases of illegal tax evasion by heads of infamous, evil, clan-owned media companies and bring them to prosecution according to the law and precedents." Mr. Kim caused a commotion when he criticized Chung Dong-young, a member of the supreme council of the ruling party who represented first- and second-term lawmakers calling for reform within the ruling party and the government. How does he determine what is evil and illegal, and on what facts does he base his assessment when cases of illegal tax evasion by the "heads of clan-owners" have not yet been reported to the persons involved? Further, some circles of the Millennium Democratic Party are said to be warning, "The readers themselves will take action." The statements indicate that ways to hammer the media from all sides is being mobilized. The logic behind media reform is fading.

On Tuesday, a Millennium Democratic Party spokesman proudly proclaimed that the incumbent government is "a people's government where freedom of the press is in full bloom." Then why does talk of media repression surface so frequently under the present government? The press can only speak through its printed pages. If the government, which is equipped with various weapons, has declared war against the press, the results are a foregone conclusion. Nonetheless, the media managed to survive through the difficult years of military dictatorships. What is lamentable is that we must speak of media repression under a self-proclaimed "people's government."
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