[EDITORIALS]Listen to journalists, Mr. Roh

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[EDITORIALS]Listen to journalists, Mr. Roh

The president of Korea and the president of the World Association of Newspapers showed sharp differences in opinion before many prominent journalists of the world.
For the 58th World Association of Newspapers conference’s opening ceremony yesterday, President Roh Moo-hyun regarded newspapers as powers to be reckoned with and emphasized the need for a system to control the abuse of the press’ power.
In contrast, Gavin O’Reilly, WAN’s acting chairman, said Korea’s media legislation to adopt such a system is “not something that is prevalent anywhere else in the democratic world.”
In particular, he said, “There are problems, as the Korean government is aware, with other proposed law revisions, that appear to us to constitute an unwarranted interference in the freedom and autonomy of publishers and their editors.” He also said that press freedom in Korea “is still not flawless.”
Mr. Roh said the Korean government does not exercise unwarranted influence on the press. But Mr. O’Reilly said, “We are aware that significant tensions exist between major newspapers and the state. Bills passed by the National Assembly which aim, among other things, to set limits on the market share of newspapers, are not, in our view, a sensible way of dealing with what some may consider is excessive influence.”
The essence of differences in opinion between Mr. Roh and Mr. O’Reilly is whether to regard the press as a power or not. Since taking office, Mr. Roh has made remarks suggesting the former, and his address yesterday confirmed that his view has not changed. It is no secret that the newspaper laws were enacted with this perspective and that they were designed to target the nation’s top three newspapers: the Chosun Ilbo, the JoongAng Ilbo and the Dong-a Ilbo.
The press is not a power. It only checks and monitors power, and that is why all kinds of powerful figures hate the free press. Through the newspaper bill, the Roh administration is trying to stifle the press, which the WAN chairman noted. It is regretful that the president of Korea ignores the opinions of the world’s journalists who say Korea’s newspaper laws are dangerous.
The newspaper laws are evil laws. Korea has just humiliated itself before the world’s journalists, and the president should alter how he views the press.
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