Press follyFollowing its shutdown of the press rooms inside ministries, the Government Information Agency yesterday cancelled the passes that allow journalists to enter government buildings. Reporters are now required to obtain new passes that will only allow them to enter the new briefing centers that are replacing the old press rooms. Over the weekend, the administration also removed papers and equipment being used by the Foreign Ministry press corps in the makeshift press room they had established in the lobby of the central government complex. Their belongings were tossed out as if they were trash, with officials saying they wanted to maintain a clean environment in the building. The Ministry of National Defense even used a portion of its budget allocated to build barracks for the relocation of the press room.
Using the sugar-coated slogan of “upgrading support for reporting activities,” the administration has cut off journalists’ access to government sources, and its unreasonable actions now have reached a climax.
Only 40 days are left before the presidential election, and the Roh Moo-hyun administration’s term will end in three months. At this point, all presidential candidates have promised to reverse the media policy if they win the election. It is, however, probably too much to expect the current administration to admit to the mistake it made.
Kim Chang-ho, the head of the Government Information Agency, told the National Assembly recently that he did not expect a new administration to reverse the changes in media policy. There is an old Korean saying that it is futile to “read scriptures to a cow;” in other words, there is little one can do to reach someone who refuses to understand. Trying to reason with Kim is like talking to a cow.
Still, the president is backing Kim, despite his attitude, and thus officials are avoiding journalists as they try to report. We want to ask this administration if it really thinks the reporters are sitting on the cold floor of the Foreign Ministry lobby for selfish reasons. We will also wait and see what changes will take place in three months. We will then hold the current officials responsible for the waste of time and money that went into this new media policy.