[EDITORIALS]Dangerous ideas on mediaPresident Roh Moo-hyun has revealed his thoughts on the media. Whether through misunderstanding or misperception, Mr. Roh’s ideas are highly likely to violate press freedom and threaten the free media system. At a staff workshop, the president complained of news reports that the Blue House was hiring administrative officials on short-term contracts so that it could use a legal loophole to raise their wages. “I feel betrayed,” he said, “because some of you went out drinking with journalists, talking nonsense and letting out information that should not have been let out.” How is it that a shady wage hike for officials whose wages are paid by the people’s taxes is “information that should not be let out?” Does Mr. Roh mean that it should be hushed because it wasn’t aboveboard? Or that the budget for shady wage hikes is not material for public knowledge? It is hard to understand these words. And now, the Blue House intends to search out the discloser of this information as if this wage hike had been a national top secret.
With the president holding such ideas, the proposed government news briefings become a matter of grave concern. The culture minister’s “news coverage guidelines” would be nothing more or less than gagging public officials and filtering the news so that only news favorable to the government is covered and unfavorable news is silenced. By forcing the media to cover only what is announced in news briefings, the government intends to cover the eyes and ears of the people.
The president’s perceptions are contorted. His statements that the media are an “uncontrolled force” and an “inherited lineage of power” are shocking. The media are validated by readers every day. Would they pay money to read an inaccurate newspaper? Media businesses are also forms of private property. To make an issue of this is to break the principles of free market and private property. Some of the world’s most prominent newspapers, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, are privately owned. Does that mean they are inimical? Are we forgetting the times in history when publicly owned newspapers became tools for those in power? We earnestly hope that Mr. Roh establishes a sensible media policy as soon as possible.