Success of raid tied to embargo placed on press

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Success of raid tied to embargo placed on press

While Korea’s Cheonghae Naval Unit yesterday successfully rescued all crew members of the Samho Jewelry, a Korean freighter hijacked by Somali pirates on Jan. 15, experts said it’s an example that clearly shows the importance of abiding by a press embargo.

Experts said the Korean press this time abided by the government’s call for refraining from reporting details about the hijacking and the government’s rescue tactics to save the sailors. They said that actually led to the success of the rescue operation without major casualties.

Jang Gwang-il, head of defense policy at the Ministry of National Defense, met with journalists on Monday and pleaded with them to refrain from reporting details about the matter.

“The safety of our sailors should come first,” Jang said. “We could run into problems saving the sailors if military operation plans are leaked to Somali pirates through media reports.”

Though the public has the right to know the latest development of the hijacking, Jang said the press needs to be mindful that sailors’ safety could be in jeopardy. “Even if media reports are reported in Korean, they could end up in the hands of pirates after they’re translated,” Jang said. Journalists conceded the grave situation and accepted the ministry’s press embargo until the sailors’ release.

When Jang on Tuesday met journalists to explain the Jan. 18 Navy unit’s first rescue operation, which left three members of the Korean Navy Seals injured, Jang again requested that the press refrain from reporting details. There were already news reports that some sailors were injured during their first rescue attempt. “Navy sailors can sustain injuries during the military operation, but [saving the lives] of sailors is important,” Jang said.

The government and Samho Shipping previously had a hard time winning the release of another hijacked ship, the Samho Dream, two months ago because the Korean press reported every detail of the government’s military countermeasures, according to experts.

Samho Shipping eventually won the release of its crew in November, seven months after they were hijacked last April. The company paid a $9.5 million ransom to free the Samho Dream and its crew members.

The Korean government and Samho Shipping at that time were battered with harsh criticism.

Critics argued that Korea’s giving in to the pirate’s demands had set a shameful precedent and that as a consequence, more Korean freighters would be targeted by pirates.

By Jeong Yong-soo []

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