Don’t hide from the mediaThe liberal, splinter opposition Unified Progressive Party has turned selective against the press, banning reporters from news organizations that have been critical of the party. The party’s standoff with the mainstream media began when some famous bloggers accused the so-called East Gyeonggi Coalition - which used to be active in dissident and anti-government movements in the 1990s - of having been behind the scandal of an opinion poll rigging which eventually forced Lee Jung-hee, co-head of the UPP, to bow out of the race to run in the April election.
The controversy was further intensified when outspoken social critic Chin Jung-kwon tweeted that the fact that the tabooed coalition name has been associated with the UPP could serve as a blow. Later, some media reported on the debate and possible surfacing of the underground dissident group.
However, the UPP attacked the conservative media for attempting to undermine the liberal coalition of the main opposition Democratic United Party and the UPP in the legislative election by bringing up a nonexistent group. But documents from the DUP and insiders of the UPP all suggest that the radical group has been an active player in the opposition camp.
The existence of the dissident coalition cannot be disproved simply by a flat denial. Of course, defamatory and malicious reporting should be controlled, and the UPP has every right to argue against any accusation and file a lawsuit on any unjust reporting. However, shedding light on the identity of a political group is also part of journalists’ obligation to satisfy people’s right to know.
The UPP has already received state funding of 546 million won ($481,500) from the National Election Commission, which means that it is now a public entity funded by taxpayers. And the party could even emerge as a key player in the legislature depending on the outcome of the upcoming election.
The UPP is obliged to comply with the public right to know. It is also a duty of the press to inform the public. It is not a political party’s due right to block press coverage just because it does not like it. The party should be more open and confident in revealing its philosophical identity and roots as well as its association with the East Gyeonggi Coalition. If it has nothing to hide and its ideological practice is within constitutional and legal boundaries, the press would be the first to step forward to defend the party from any unjust oppression.