[EDITORIALS]Ethics and hysteria

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[EDITORIALS]Ethics and hysteria

Allegations have surfaced that the reporters from MBC network’s investigative program “PD Notebook” used coercive methods during their interviews for a feature on the accusations that the bioengineer Hwang Woo-suk’s research team used unethical methods to obtain egg cells for their study of human cell cloning. When interviewing members of Dr. Hwang’s team who were sent to conduct research in the United States, the reporters pressured the interviewees to talk to them by falsely telling them that Dr. Hwang was soon to be prosecuted and that another professor had already confessed everything.
A bulletin on the Blue House Web site contained a short message by President Roh Moo-hyun on Sunday, in which he stated that he had received reports of the MBC crew’s conduct.
One can only imagine what had been the behavior of the MBC crew members in their investigation if the situation has reached a point where the Blue House secretary for science and technology files a report to the president and requests a conference to discuss the aftermath. MBC claims that much of the report is not true and as of now there is no way to verify what really happened. But the testimony of the interviewees and the fact that even the Blue House has charged that there had been a problem with the reporting shows that MBC will need some pretty convincing evidence to back its claim. One of the researchers that were interviewed by the MBC crew is now being treated at a hospital after suffering a mental breakdown because of the interview.
Of course, it is the duty of the press to work for the public’s right to know. But the methods used in reporting should be legitimate. Newsmen have a responsibility to maintain not only legal legitimacy but ethical legitimacy as well. MBC should thoroughly investigate the matter and make public its findings. MBC should be ready to accept the public’s judgment according to the results of its findings, and the press should reflect on the manner of news coverage.
But separate from this controversy, MBC should not be made a scapegoat by irrational anger.
Eleven out of 12 companies that bought commercial air time on “PD Notebook” have withdrawn their commercials under pressure by online public opinion. One cannot help feeling that things have gotten seriously out of hand when one hears that someone has posted a family picture of the program producer on the Internet with a message that the family members should all die.
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