A waste of moneyIn January, President Roh Myun-hyun ordered a review of government press rooms around the world. The Government Information Agency has now released the results of the exercise which, from the beginning, seemed like a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money.
When the research was initiated, President Roh said that all Korean reporters were allowed into the government’s pressroom but usually only a few stayed there for long periods and they determined how articles were written. At Mr. Roh’s request, the agency conducted research on pressrooms in all 27 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The work took two months to complete.
Despite the expenditure of a small fortuned in taxpayers’ money, the research lacks any tangible content. Its main observation seems to be that pressrooms in Korea are larger than those in advanced countries.
The report also said that some Korean reporters camp out in facilities that were supposed to be used solely by them to send stories to their offices, giving them the chance to swap information and gain an advantage over reporters who do not have the same privilege. That seems to suggest that such rooms will be closed and reporters will have to go to the public information office first if they want to interview civil workers, placing a limitation on their coverage.
Pressrooms are run differently in different countries. How they are managed and run is determined by a country’s traditions and practices, but there is one thing that must be guaranteed. Pressrooms must operate in a way that enhances the freedom of the press.
During their futile research, workers at the Government Information Agency must have realized that advanced democracies help their media and guarantee the people’s right to know. They must have realized that there is no country where the president or the prime minister has a press conference with Internet news outlets while denying reporters from major news dailies the chance to ask questions.
It is a cheap tactic to make it difficult for reporters to send articles to their offices, just because the government detests the press. This administration behaves as if it wants to replicate the Defense Ministry pressroom during military rule, when reporters were only allowed access to the pressroom and toilets. We urge the government to stop wasting taxpayers’ money and think seriously about what it can do to help reporters do their jobs as efficiently as possible.