[EDITORIALS]Roh a threat to free press

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[EDITORIALS]Roh a threat to free press

President Roh Moo-hyun disclosed, through his state of the nation address yesterday, that he has intervened in the selection of the head of Korea Broadcasting System. He said, “I thought it necessary that the president express his own choice before the board of directors of KBS named their candidate, because I thought it difficult to reject a person recommended.”
As “the decision is made by the board,” as Mr. Roh said, and in view of past practices, we cannot say that the president’s action was extraordinary. But in view of the importance of the independence of public broadcasting, Mr. Roh should not have intervened, even though it was a practice by past governments.
Selection of the KBS president should follow transparent and fair procedures laid out in the Broadcasting Act. The KBS labor union should have limited its action to expressing its opinion on selection criteria to the board. The union should not have blocked the new president from coming to work. Mr. Roh could have rejected the board’s recommendation, citing the reason. This is the way the president exercises his responsibility.
We pay special attention to Mr. Roh’s intervention because it was in tune with his move to restrain mainstream newspapers. Explaining why he stepped in, he said, “I wanted the broadcast media to report in a fair manner. And then the function of offsetting the biased and distorted reports [of newspapers] will exist.” This shows that Mr. Roh’s press view is based on a dichotomy of newspapers as the enemy and broadcasters as comrades.
Mr. Roh wanted to appoint his choice to head public broadcasting. How can we expect such a person to support an independent media. Mr. Roh has displayed his negative view of the press by questioning the market dominance of leading newspapers and hereditary succession of newspaper ownership. The press seeks the truth through objective reporting and the people are the final arbitrators of what is news. The views of the president himself are a threat to press freedom.
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