[EDITORIALS]Stop Attacks on Newspapers Now

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[EDITORIALS]Stop Attacks on Newspapers Now

The bashing of the nation's three largest newspapers by the government, the ruling party and pro-government media is getting to be too much. Oh Hong-keun, head of the Government Information Agency is issuing public statements blasting the press about once every three days, and the ruling party accuses the major papers of being a corrupt bunch, with their daily comments. More than 80 billion won($62 million) in back taxes levied by the tax agency against each of the three newspapers, and the current prosecution investigation into criminal charges against their executives are apparently not enough.

A poll conducted by the Munwha Broadcasting Corporation and Gallup Korea shows that a majority of the public suspect there are other motivations behind these joint forces. About 56 percent of pollees responded "yes" to the question, "Is the tax audit against media companies a government bid to muzzle a critical press?" It is natural for the newspapers to raise questions on the tax probe, but the government charges that they "distorted reports" and "curtailed state affairs and divided public opinion."

Hidden motives or intentions aside, painting newspapers as the vilest criminals is absurd because the judgment is based only on the announcements made by the tax office, which are not confirmed. Despite the government's defense, many are questioning why the tax agency ignored the industry's past practices and inflated figures to levy a heftier tax. The question needs clarifications, that should accompany the prosecutor's investigation. Some MDP lawmakers seem to have made up their minds that the "Big Three" newspapers are a group of crooks. The party spokesman, Jeon Yong-hak, criticized Wednesday's rally by the opposition Grand National Party as a "rally to defend and protect corruption by tax evasion." Representative Choo Mi-ae, has criticized contributors to the three newspapers as "sycophants."

Is this not a demonstration of the willful pride and prejudice that gives way to the dangerous thinking that "only I am right," and that threatens to divide society? If the tax inquiry is a "routine procedure," as the government claims, why not wait for the final and authoritative results? Why divide the press by launching an organized bashing campaign against selective newspapers? This is why the public wonders about the "political motives" of press oppression.
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