[EDITORIALS]‘Malicious’ press guidelinesThe Government Information Agency has sent out a guideline to government ministries, advising them not to cooperate in providing press coverage to media outlets that maliciously carry distorted reports on government policy. Also included is the recommendation that the agencies not respond to requests for interviews, commentaries and other requests for cooperation, other than the usual information service, for any media firm that persistently makes incorrect reports.
The official paper from the agency sets 12 standards in handling matters related to publicity on government policy. It explicitly shows the government’s intention to boycott media outlets that criticize government policy. It is a warning that press outlets critical of the government will be hindered in obtaining coverage.
How to define the expression “malicious report” is ambiguous, and it is questionable what standard the government will apply in determining what is a “distorted report.” In fact, whether a report is “distorted” is not something the government should decide, but should be decided by a court. When an erroneous report is filed, there are various ways of correcting it, including the right to request corrections and appealing to the Press Arbitration Commission. How can we consider a society to be democratic if it denies a media outlet press coverage on grounds of “distortions?” This is plainly an anti-democratic act, handcuffing reporters whose job is to facilitate the public’s right to know.
To the working-level officials who are in charge of publicity, these guidelines will only give them excuses for shirking their duties. When officials receive requests for special coverage, such as personal comments on specific issues or an interview, they must first receive clearance from the agency’s office in charge of publicity coordination. They can also evade such requests on the pretext of “malicious” intentions or possible “distortions.” With such passive ideas of defending itself, instead of actively publicizing its work, how can the government persuade people?
The government that punishes the press from a “malicious” viewpoint will ultimately infringe on the people’s right to know. Over the past several decades, we witnessed that the voice of those in the press who criticized the government was closer to that of the people than the voice of those who praised it. The government must reconsider its regressive publicity policy.