KBS shirked its journalistic ethics

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KBS shirked its journalistic ethics

Figures from various social fields issued a joint statement accusing public broadcaster KBS of discrediting the role of the media by distorting a lecture by prime minister-designate Moon Chang-keuk.

The former journalist came under heavy attack and was criticized as unfit to fill the post following the report, in which video excerpts were aired from an informal address Moon made before his church in 2011, when he said colonial rule and the division of the Korean Peninsula might have been a part of God’s great plan. Moon has since been painted as a pro-Japanese sympathizer. “KBS has done a great deal of damage to the media’s credibility by intentionally highlighting a small part of a lecture and then implying that he betrayed his country.”

The statement, signed by nearly 500 people from the academic, media and religious sectors, urged the National Assembly to proceed with a confirmation hearing for Moon to allow him to clarify his position.

Accuracy and fairness is essential in journalism. Regardless of any political implications, KBS must ask itself it stayed true to the basics of journalism in its coverage of the prime minister-nominee.

Journalism pursues truth - not the philosophical and figurative kind - but truth strictly based on objective facts, which they collect, confirm and report. Has the public broadcaster maintained the integrity of its role?

It was right to investigate and question Moon’s eligibility for the post. But KBS has been sloppy in the ways it researched and delivered the truth. It neglected the basic rules in journalism. It edited an hour-long video speech to frame and stigmatize Moon. It did not attempt to balance the reporting from Moon’s perspective. Nor did it take time to fully study the lecture and its context.

In a recent debate aired on television that discussed Moon and the controversy surrounding him, rival broadcaster MBC ran the unedited version of his church address to allow the audience to make their own judgments. If KBS had attempted to release the tape in such way, it would not have been accused of a witch hunt.

The KBS report will be subject to review by the Korea Communications Standards Commission for breaching rules on accuracy and defamation. But before being penalized, KBS must take some time to reflect. It was also criticized for its clumsiness in covering the Sewol ferry crisis, and its president and news chief were dismissed in the process. KBS is Korea’s largest broadcasting network. If it shakes, the ramifications could impact society overall.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 24, Page 34

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