[EDITORIALS]Stop press restrictionsWhen the Roh Moo-hyun administration took office, it designated the press as a target of reform. We feel a sense of shame that the press of Korea, which has supported the public’s right to know and has spoken out for less fortunate members of society, is being degraded as a target of reform.
If some traditional practices of the press deserve criticism, they should be criticized and reformed, of course. But such criticism and reform should not infringe on the “freedom of the press.” The true nature of the “reform of the press room system and adoption of regular briefing,” which the Korean Information Service announced, is far from extending the public’s right to know, though the government insists that it is.
We don’t oppose the current administration’s plan to open the press rooms of the ministries to minority media members and to introduce a regular briefing system. We don’t care whether the government conducts briefings once a week or two times a week.
But we worry about the government’s plan to limit newsgathering activities, which it intends to enforce with the opening of the press rooms and the introduction of regular briefings. A restriction on newsgathering activities, based on the hostility to the press, will make the media report only the data and information, actions that one-sidedly favor the administration.
Look at the war in Iraq. The U.S. military is conducting regular briefings. And the military provides a great number of press releases. But a news story depending only on those briefings and press releases will be no more than an unilateral delivery of information.
Having only a regular briefing system cannot actively and comprehensively guarantee the public’s right to know and freedom of the press. The scoops that the past press got, such as the death of Park Jong-cheol, a student activist tortured by the military regime in the 1980s, were the result of a press that refused the unilateral delivery of information and instead struggled for freedom of the press. It is wrong for the government to conveniently deny such traditions while the press struggles to protect the public’s right to know.