Time for MBC to answerLee Dong-jae, a former reporter from conservative Channel A TV, was acquitted in the first trial Sunday of having coerced an inmate to expose dirt on Rhyu Si-min, head of the Roh Moo-hyun Foundation and a popular pro-government political commentator, to help attack the liberal Moon Jae-in administration. The court found no specific evidence pointing to Lee’s use of his ties with a senior prosecutor to blackmail a businessman behind bars.
The court more or less found no connection between the right-wing television company and the prosecution over the case first reported by public broadcaster MBC. Although the court said the defendant had violated the ethics of journalism, it concluded that criminal punishment “must be discreet.”
Lee underwent a lengthy investigation and trial. But no conviction has been proven against him. His alleged collusion with ranking prosecutor Han Dong-hoon also could not be proven. Those who had raised suspicions now must answer for it. MBC has persistently reported about the alleged connection. Lee claimed he had been trapped by an individual who contacted him to give confidential information. MBC allegedly taped their meeting secretly.
MBC must clarify whether it really made a deal with the informant to push prosecutor Han into a corner. The public broadcaster is also suspected of having been moving at the order of former presidential secretary and Open Democratic Party head Choe Kang-wook.
MBC is also facing police questioning after its reporters posed as policemen to look into alleged plagiarism by the wife of former Prosecutor General Yoon. It must be investigated whether it violated the press ethics code.
Former Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae is largely blamed for building up the case. She excluded Yoon from the case through an executive order in July and sent the case to Lee Sung-yoon, a Moon loyalist and head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office at the time. Nevertheless, the prosecution could not prove the connection between Han and Lee.
But Choo has been unrelenting by challenging the court ruling. She went too far by attempting to discipline Yoon for laxity in the Channel A case.
Senior prosecutor Han, whose name also has been cleared with the first trial, has defined the case as a collusion among the ruling power, criminals and the media.
The prosecution must be as rigid with MBC as it has been with Channel A to convince the people it is acting justly.