[FOUNTAIN]Roh pushes stronger ties with mediaIn the early days of the war against Iraq in March 2003, Fox News war correspondent Geraldo Rivera ― arguably one of the most influential news services in the United States along with CNN ― showed up at the 101st Airborne Division’s base in the desert. Wearing black pants, a black jacket and dark sunglasses, Rivera looked sleek and professional. However, he was expelled from the base for mentioning secret operations by the 101st Division and the 4th Division on a live television news segment. The Christian Science Monitor’s war reporter, Philip Smucker, was also kicked out of Iraq only eight days into the war. During his appearance on CNN, he revealed detailed information regarding the U.S. military.
The 700 or so correspondents dispatched to Iraq in the embed program had a unique experience covering the war. Before they were assigned to a military unit, they had to agree to comply with the ground rules. They couldn’t write about military strength and operation secrets and were supposed to follow orders of the unit commander. However, the embed program was run flexibly. The reporters could write about some sensitive subjects minus revealing detail.
More important than the numbers of missiles and tanks was the operational information and the movement of the forces. The rules were designed to keep operational information secret. However, the reporters were allowed to attend operational meetings and learned of confidential information with the permission of commanders. Mr. Rivera and Mr. Smucker got into trouble after they wrote more about military secrets. Live coverage of the war through the embed program is considered to have changed media coverage of the war.
In contrast, the media activities in Korea are far limited, and a direct comparison is inappropriate. Reporters accredited to government agencies have increasingly limited access to the Roh Moo-hyun administration. The main source of the information is bland briefings. Correspondents on the front line are working in a freeze.
Fortunately, President Roh recently ordered the ministries to increase personal contacts with reporters. The media welcomed the gesture as a sign that the hostility against the media is changing. It is better that the government is treating the media as a partner rather than an enemy.
by Ahn Sung-kyoo
The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.