Channel A reporter summoned on suspicions of collusion
Prosecutors on Monday summoned a broadcast reporter accused of colluding with a prosecutor to take down a media personality friendly to the current administration.
Reporter Lee Dong-jae from Channel A, a subscription television network owned by the Dong-A Media Group, one of Korea’s largest media conglomerates, entered the offices of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office to oversee digital forensic analysis of materials obtained in a raid of Channel A’s offices on April 28.
Lee Dong-jae is accused of threatening Lee Cheol, an executive convicted for violating finance laws, to obtain incriminating information on Rhyu Si-min, a liberal pundit with close ties to the Moon Jae-in administration.
In the process, he is believed to have told Lee Cheol that he had the backing of Han Dong-hoon, a senior prosecutor at the Busan High Prosecutors’ Office and close ally of Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl.
The explosive allegation, first raised in an investigative report by public broadcaster MBC in March, appeared to corroborate widespread allegations of collusion between the state prosecution service.
Lee Dong-jae’s claim to Lee Cheol that he had a close relationship with Han and was aware of the progress of a prosecutorial investigation raised allegations that the prosecutor may have purposefully leaked information to the media. According to MBC, the reporter told Lee Cheol’s representative that he had spoken to Han over the phone and had obtained the prosecutor’s consent to coerce Lee Cheol.
Liberal media personalities also claimed the Channel A reporter’s attempts to solicit Lee Cheol into incriminating Rhyu represented an attempt by the prosecution to silence a prominent voice supportive of the Moon administration’s prosecutorial reform.
Prosecutors’ attempt to raid Channel A’s offices on April 28 prompted the company’s reporters to stage a sit-in at their offices in protest over the course of two days. The company’s journalists, as well as several conservative pundits, argued the investigation represented a crackdown on freedom of the press. The company eventually handed over the evidence by voluntary means on the third day.
Lee Dong-jae is set to be questioned by prosecutors once they complete their forensic analysis of the evidence collected at Channel A’s headquarters.
CEO Kim Jae-ho admitted to the country’s media watchdog Korea Communications Commission earlier last month that the reporter had breached journalism ethics.
The Citizens’ Coalition for Democratic Media, a civic group monitoring media practices in Korea, filed a criminal complaint to prosecutors against Channel A last month.
Prosecutors are also probing MBC based on an accusation made by former Finance Minister Choi Kyung-whan. Choi, who is currently serving a jail sentence for corruption, said MBC had smeared his name by reporting Lee Cheol’s testimony that Choi had attempted to invest in a company in which Lee Cheol owned major shares.
While prosecutors attempted to raid MBC’s offices in addition to Channel A’s, a court turned down the search warrant for MBC last month.
BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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