Press suppressionIn 1987, student activist Park Jong-cheol was tortured to death by the police, and the incident triggered Korea’s democratization movement. Recently, Hanwha Group Chairman Kim Seung-youn’s retaliation attack became a hot public topic.
Both incidents share a common point; the police tried to hide them, but the media persistently investigated the incidents and laid bare the truth.
In any society, the media’s function of monitoring those in power plays a vital role. The role, however, is a pain in the neck for a government with many problems. That is why a failing government often suppresses the press. Universally, such societies are marred with corruption and eventually collapse.
The Roh Moo-hyun administration’s press suppression does not fall short of the past military regimes. The Roh administration shuts down journalists’ rooms and wastes tax money to block reporters’ access to information, doing its best to make the people blind and deaf.
The Government Information Agency decided to manage the schedules of all ministries’ briefings, an attempt to control the media reports on all ministries. Some government institutions have gone even further. The Financial Supervisory Service said it will limit journalists’ use of elevators in order to block them from entering offices. Police said they will block journalists from freely entering police stations.
The journalists’ rooms at police stations were never a place for the reporters’ entertainment. It was not only an office for the reporters to write and file stories, but also a venue where many human rights victims made appeals about police abuse. Over recent years, 22 percent of the petitions sent to the National Human Rights Commission were related to police abuse. If the journalists are kicked out from police stations, who will stand beside the people?
The Roh administration wants the media to repeat its press releases, just like parrots. But, the media’s main role is not only to monitor the power but also analyze the government polices accurately and challenge them to find the right direction. That is the way for a society and a country to develop.
The Roh administration’s media suppression is a matter of grave concern because it is not a simple blocking of journalists’ reporting activities, but because the people’s right to know, democracy and Korean society are on the verge of collapse. That is why all media are protesting against the new media policy in one voice.