Shame on the commission
The press is the guardian of the people’s constitutional right to know. The people have the right to know the real truth, not an edited or distorted version. The media would not only be violating the people’s right to know, but would actually be committing a crime if distorted or biased reporting seriously damages a person’s character or privacy to the extent of “burying” the person publicly. Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) in its prime-time news forced Moon Chang-keuk to give up his nomination for prime minister by framing him as “pro-Japanese” by cutting and editing comments he made in a church ceremony. Moon not only lost the nomination, but also lost all of his credentials as a journalist. The nationwide broadcaster abused its media power and unabashedly infringed the people’s right to know the truth.
The media is often referred to as the fourth power due to its influence. Supervision and constraint of power is necessary. Otherwise, powerful entities can abuse their authority and become corrupt. The state has watchdog and protective mechanisms such as the Korea Communications Standards Commission and Press Arbitration Commission for this purpose.
KBS’s coverage of Moon was reviewed by the regulatory commission, which concluded that KBS had violated the media principles of fairness and objectivity. But as punishment, it only gave a slap-on-the-wrist administrative “advisory” action. The commission’s lower committee last month recommended stronger penalties to punish people responsible for biased news coverage.
In the commission meeting, members who were present because they were recommended by the ruling and opposition parties waged a fierce debate on the issue and reached a compromise. But an issue related to the individual and public’s right to knowledge and the role of the press cannot be compromised to serve political purposes.
The commission has more or less surrendered its function to supervise and contain the media. We have to question if it is capable of safeguarding media fairness and the role of public broadcasters with such a low sense of responsibility and such high political influence. The media must keep watch over the government and other organizations in positions of power while the media watchdogs do the same over the media to uphold fairness in our society. We cannot agree with the commission’s decision.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 10, Page 22
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