[EDITORIALS]Criticism and pufferyThe government’s attitude toward the media is confusing. Minister of Culture and Tourism Lee Chang-dong, who is responsible for media policy, criticized the press in a recent interview with a local radio station, claiming that news organizations amplify problems into crises that alarm readers. But the Office for Government Policy Coordination plans to publicize government work through the media with the active participation of cabinet ministers and vice ministers to boast of the achievements of the Roh Moo-hyun administration in its first 100 days. The government is blaming the media for what goes wrong but wants to use it as a publicity vehicle.
That unbalanced view of the press reflects government misunderstanding of the media’s watchdog role.
It is the basic duty of the press to lead the society in the right direction by printing the truth in line with the people’s right to know. The media should be in a position to check the power of the government. The minister in charge of the press should know the duties and social functions of the news media. Constructive criticism by the media is not an “amplification” off social discord.
A particular point of concern is Mr. Lee’s criticism of the media’s selection of news items. Among numerous things happening daily in the world, selecting the news items of the day is a job for seasoned professionals. Whether President Roh’s remark, “I cannot perform the duties of the presidency” is treated as gossip or the lead story depends on each media outlet’s own decision, and they will be evaluated by their readers or viewers. As long as there are no factual mistakes, the government has no right to intervene in news selection.
Governments trying to use the media to promote their major policies is nothing new or unique to Korea. But we still wonder if the publicity plan to promote the achievements of the first 100 days of the Roh administration is actually based on a view that the government can intervene in news selection. An administration that treats the press as a tool for publicity is not a healthy administration.