[Outlook]Just the facts, please

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[Outlook]Just the facts, please

During a press conference in Iraq, a journalist threw both his shoes at former U.S. President George W. Bush, saying that they were for all the Iraqis who were sacrificed in the war in his country.

The reporter was later identified as Muntadar al-Zaidi, a correspondent for Al-Bagdadiya Television.

Since that incident, throwing shoes seems to have become somewhat of a trend. People may be forgiven for doing it, but it is not right for a journalist to do so.

Even if a journalist feels enraged over a certain issue, he should express himself with a pen, not with his shoes.

In the Western world, the incident was written off as a silly story but in the Arab world, the journalist is said to have become a hero.

A 2.5-meter, 1.5-ton statue of a shoe was put up in front of an orphanage in Tikrit, Iraq, although it was removed only a day later.

The journalist is scheduled to be tried, and if he receives a harsh sentence, a statue of him may even be erected in Iraq.

But we are in no position to mock the case in Iraq. We have plenty of similar stories in our own history.

During the Japanese occupation, a journalist named Choi of the Chosun Ilbo saw a man come out of an upmarket restaurant, Myeongwolgwan, in Seorin-dong, Seoul and urinate on the street.

At first glance, the journalist thought the drunken man was Japanese as he was wearing a yukata, a Japanese summer garment, but soon realized that the man was a very influential Korean who worked for the Japanese.

This infuriated him, and the journalist kicked the man brutally. The journalist was taken into the police station in Jongno immediately.

He was released later after his employer, Shin Seok-woo, dashed down to the police station and begged them to let him go. The next day, editor Baek Kwan-soo, who led the Feb. 8 independence declaration in Tokyo, called Choi in and complimented him on his courageous and righteous act.

Years later, another such act took place. Sohn Kee-chung, a Korean marathon runner, was forced to run for the Japanese team in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. Sohn won the race and brought home a gold medal.

The Dong-A Ilbo and the Chosun Ilbo ran his photo, but without the Japanese flag on his chest.

Journalists must report facts as they are. As something that was there was erased, the newspapers distorted the truth.

It was a righteous deed, as it expressed the sentiments of intellectuals of the colonized country, but it was clearly not what journalists were supposed to do.

The Japanese governor general of Korea suspended publication of the two newspapers. The ban on the Dong-A Ilbo was lifted nine months later but the Chosun Ilbo was not allowed to publish again.

However, the reporter who was responsible for doctoring the photo became a hero to intellectuals in Korea. The daily he worked for still tells the story now and then as a symbol of its protest against the Japanese occupation.

Under American rule, the press became propaganda tools used by politicians. When Syngman Rhee was president, newspapers were divided into those who promoted the ruling party and those in opposition.

The mass media became highly politically charged, a chronic problem in the local press. This still persists nowadays. Take the reporting about the Yongsan tragedy.

The news reports about the case remind us of the shoe-throwing Iraqi journalist. A reporter for a certain newspaper throws shoes at the police while a journalist for another newspaper kicks the protesters.

In confirmation hearings for ministerial nominees, journalists who were hard on left-wing nominees become meek with right-wing ones while those who were gentle take a harsh stance.

A newspaper that condemned a nominee for plagiarism now keeps quiet about a similar case. Another paper that was quiet over the first case makes a big deal out of the second.

Journalists ignore the principle that reporters must deliver facts in a fair manner and tailor their cases to suit their perspectives.

Since they cater to certain political parties or factions, trust in our press is incredibly low, particularly compared to advanced countries.

In order to develop our media to the level of advanced countries, we must improve the process of forming public opinion. The press must forget their political causes or preferences and go back to textbook journalism.

Reporters must think about only one thing: the facts. Will anyone volunteer to set up a statue of a shoe in Korea? The statue would remind the press to exercise self-discipline.

*The writer is a professor at Korea University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Kim Min-hwan
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