[EDITORIALS]A foolish warrantThe prosecution obtained a search and seizure warrant to take legal possession of videotapes that recorded the entertainment of Yang Gil-seung, the former personal secretary to the president. The prosecution’s methods, however, are undesirable, infringing on media freedom. Because a broadcaster is a constituent of this society, it would cooperate with the prosecution based on its own judgement if the tapes were critical evidence to prove an important criminal charge. But this case was not too unimportant for the prosecution to seek the warrant and for a court to issue it. In other words, the prosecution had no reason to search and seize evidence from a media company for a simple case, risking a precedent of infringement on press freedom. The edited footage of the videotapes, already aired, showed Mr. Yang’s movements from his arrival at Cheongju to his departure for Seoul. The clip also showed the hostesses at the party, who were not identified, and a woman holding a camera. Thus, the prosecution seems to have enough evidence to investigate the mastermind of the secret recording without obtaining the original tapes. The prosecution, however, tried to search and seize without giving a convincing explanation. We have to say that the decision was hasty and that the prosecution ignored or did not take seriously the importance of media freedom.
Journalism has a responsibility to protect informants. It is self-evident why journalists have to protect any whistle-blower. The protection is a mechanism to prevent corruption in our society. The decisive factor that made U.S. President Nixon to step down from office was the Washington Post’s decision to protect the informants until the end and a court ruling that supported that decision. Freedom of the press is recognized as a global value because serious damage can be done by those in power when it is not protected.
The videotape did not merit a warrant. A practical and convincing resolution must be found between two principles ― journalists’ protection of informants and law enforcement. The decision must also reflect the media’s independent judgment.