[EDITORIALS]Disclosure brings fairnessThe government is going ahead with its plan to change the way the news media cover its agencies and is moving to open its press offices and introduce news briefings. The subject of much contention between the media and the government of late -- whether to require government officials to report everything they tell reporters, to ban anonymous quotes and how telephone calls and after-hour meetings will be handled -- will apparently be left up to the individual agencies. The plan will allow reporters to visit government offices to some degree.
It is difficult to understand the urgency with which the government is moving on this subject, when the first to introduce the news briefings -- the Blue House -- is obviously struggling with the new tradition. There is clearly a misjudgment about which should come first.
The ultimate goal of the government in trying to reform the way the media cover the government’s work by providing a new way of communicating information is obviously to ensure that the information is accurate. Before making changes in the way reporters do their work, the government should establish an environment in which reporters have no obstacles to obtaining information.
The current law on public agency information disclosure is so ambiguous and broad to the degree that it is sarcastically called “The Act on Information Disclosure Evasion.” The previous administration’s effort to improve it was a complete failure, and an amendment proposed by the urging of civic groups is perennially pending at the National Assembly. The new government should have amended the information disclosure act and created an atmosphere where government officials do not feel they have to avoid answering reporters’ questions.
Introducing a clearly imperfect news briefing system without ensuring that information disclosure will be improved will inevitably result in restricting the role of the media as they try to keep an eye on the government. Before it demands responsible behavior by the media, the government ought to be prepared to show how it operates.