[EDITORIALS]Rights for the press, tooThe prosecution and the National Police Agency have announced a new policy designed to protect the human rights of those under investigation. Under the new measure, authorities can ban the press from making public the summoning of a suspect for questioning and prevent photos being taken. The authorities will also not make interim reports on the progress of an investigation.
The prosecution explained that the measure was decided upon because the exposure of a person under investigation has posed a serious problem of infringement on basic rights.
The rights of a suspect should be protected. It is also desirable that overnight interrogation be banned and that suspects be able to have help of a lawyer. But, if a public summons and announcements of interim investigation reports are prohibited, the public’s right to know and media’s watchdog role will be constrained because all reporting activities will be held up until investigations are concluded. Moreover, it is not ordinary citizens, but irregularities of those in power, that the press follows. That is why people question whether the measure is designed to protect the powerful.
Prosecutor General Kim Jong-bin said, “The prosecution will reveal investigation results of cases that aroused suspicion of the people to the extent necessary.” It is good that he has made a conciliatory gesture.
It is also problematic that the prosecutors can take punitive measures, including banning press coverage by journalists deemed to have made erroneous reports. If the press makes a mistake, prosecutors can demand corrections through the Press Arbitration Commission, or file a lawsuit asking for civic or criminal responsibility. Banning journalists’ activities amounts to an infringement on free press coverage. The prosecutors can refuse an interview requests from any journalist who made an erroneous report. But it takes some time to prove a report is mistaken. It is disclosed that the measure this time was the result of an order from the Blue House. The Blue House explains President Roh Moo-hyun ordered to provide a measure to protect the human rights of suspects, when the mayor of Incheon was investigated last year. But it came at a time when an investigation surrounding an oil development project was about to become fully blown. The prosecution shouldn’t hinder people’s right to know and the media’s role to watch.