[EDITORIALS]Lee ‘steps out of line’Taking aim at specific newspapers, Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan warned them not to “step out of line.” This was the response he gave to reporters in Germany when asked what he thought about the governing Uri Party’s media reform bill.
He also said that the specific newspapers are “in the palm of his hand” and they should not “commit treacherous acts against history.” He also said, “I as well as President Roh Moo-hyun will fight against them to the end.”
If a newspaper criticizes the government, can that be considered “stepping out of line?” And what sort of qualifications gave him the right to declare that certain newspapers committed treacherous acts against history? Newspapers are following their own path. With his words, the prime minister has revealed that he has the wrong view of the press, as well as arrogance and self-righteousness.
The message from Kim Byeong-jun, the policy chief of the Blue House, on the official homepage is also inappropriate. Mr. Kim said that he feels heavy in the chest when reading newspapers. He argues that improper reporting by the press is against the national interest and threatens the country.
He further said that the actions of certain newspapers are not only creating a gap between the people and the government but also hurting the country’s competitiveness. He is blaming the media for whatever is wrong right now.
Look at the public polls. Is it because of the press that the president’s popular support hovers around the 20 percent mark or is it because of the government and the Uri Party?
Such comments by key officials indicate the Uri Party’s intention to push forward with the reform laws governing the press. On the outside, they talk about normalization of the newspaper market and the rights of the readers, but this is a confession that the true purpose is to silence a critical press. The comments of Lee Hae-chan remind us of media oppression under the authoritarian regimes in the past.
What sort of society is the governing party striving for? Does the government want a society similar to an “animal farm” in which there are no critics or checks and only blind obedience? Does it want a press like North Korea’s, praising the “Dear Leader?”
If one dislikes criticism of misgovernment, correcting mistakes is a logical response. Silencing the critics is a treacherous act against history in itself.