[EDITORIALS]Targeting Press Fuels Public DistrustThe National Tax Service has decided to extend tax probes into 10 media companies for 30 additional working days. The probes were supposed to end Monday. The 10 companies include the so-called "Big Three Newspapers," i.e., JoongAng Ilbo, Chosun Ilbo and DongA Ilbo. Since the rumors that the government would extend the tax probe period on the Big Three have materialized, we cannot help expressing our concern that the recent investigation by the National Tax Service is another measure targeting specific newspaper companies in addition to the newspaper regulations implemented by the Fair Trade Commission. Such measures certainly confirm our suspicions that the government's intention is to bring what it feels is an errant press to heel.
We cannot help sensing that it is specifically the Big Three that are the target of press reform. Some broadcasting companies and newspapers that backed the government reform were notably critical of the Big Three. Also, certain media-related civic organizations singled out the three for attack. There are rumors that the government is already pressuring specific newspaper companies by every means at its disposal.
When the National Tax Service launched the probe, the unfairness of the investigation was widely criticized. The number of investigators dispatched and the level of investigation clearly differed from company to company. Considering that even tax probes into large companies end by a scheduled date, extending the investigation period to gather more data after the deadline speaks of where the real intention lies. If watchdogs such as the National Tax Service and the Fair Trade Commission act against the principle of equity, the public will never forgive their actions and further suspect the legitimacy of their investigations.
The government must realize that its conflict with the press is one of the major reasons behind public distrust. It should realize, too, that the public will never accept its oppressive measures toward the media companies, even in the name of press reform. The government must also take note of the warning messages sent by press organizations worldwide about the press policy of the current administration