The sound of tyrannyAfter the departmental pressrooms were abolished, journalists took up stations in the lobbies of government buildings, sitting on small pieces of carpet. These “carpet press rooms” became an international joke and a national shame. The regime has now removed the carpets. Now journalists have no place to work. The one who bears the responsibility for this situation is President Roh Moo-hyun. In the court of history he will be accused of the following crimes:
First, the president wrongly disposed of the citizens’ property. The pressrooms in the government complex belong to the people. These are rooms funded by the taxpayers so that journalists can monitor government policy on their behalf. In a sense a regime is just a tenant for five years. Yet that tenant has restructured the building he rented without the permission of the landlord.
Second, the president has deceived the people. His staff have argued that the pressroom still exists, since they made a huge briefing room with space to write stories at the central government building and the government complex in Gwacheon to replace the individual pressrooms at government departments.
That sounds reasonable on the surface, but the press room should exist in departments. Journalists can then meet government officials in person and read government policies from their eyes. If journalists are distanced from government officials, citizens become distant from the administration. This harms the interests of the people. However the regime never tells the truth to the citizens.
Third, the president has violated freedom of speech.
Problems did exist in the pressroom system, and the media sometimes misbehaved as did other parts of society under the authoritarian regimes. But that is now history. Journalists insist on having a pressroom so they can work in a professional atmosphere close to policy makers. A sane government would assist journalists.
Fourth, the president has harmed the interests of citizens. An increasing number of government officials refuse to talk when they receive phone calls from journalists, due to the policy that all contact with reporters should be arranged through the public affairs briefing room.
However, who will volunteer to talk about corruption or bribery when all contacts with journalists are channeled through the briefing room? Tyrants love the screams of the weak and the silence of the strong. It seems like Roh’s lackeys are now playing his song.