A media outlet must take legal responsibility

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A media outlet must take legal responsibility

A media group has removed the real names of more than 10 victims of the deadly Itaewon crowd crush from its earlier posting on Monday of 155 out of total 158 victims on its homepage. The press withdrew the names of 10 victims after receiving complaints from families of the victims. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says that nearly all families of 26 foreign victims, except for one, did not want their names to be revealed. Some foreign embassies in Seoul protested against making public the names of their nationals.

The media group said the posting of their names helps extend deep condolences to the victims and find the truth behind the tragedy. “We only made public the names of the victims. Please understand that we posted them without getting consent from victims’ families,” it said. Such explanations do not make sense. A priest representing the Catholic Priests’ Association for Justice (CPA), appeared on News Factory, a Youtube channel operated by Kim Ou-joon, an outspoken liberal critic, and said he does not care about controversy over the legitimacy of revealing the names of victims.

The biggest problem with making public the names of victims is that it can inflict a secondary damage on their families. The media says it revealed their names only. But citizens can easily find who the victims are, thanks to their unique names in some cases. The media outlet says that the foreign press exposed the identity of victims, including their names. But we wonder if they did so without getting consent from their families. The head of the National Human Rights Commission expressed regrets about the media group’s action and the National Union of Media Workers criticized the group for violating media guidelines on disaster reports.

The media group must take legal responsibility. Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon hinted at the possibility of punishing it for inflicting a secondary damage on the families. Even Lawyers for a Democratic Society, a progressive group, denounced the group for irrevocably infringing on the rights of those families suffering a post-traumatic stress disorder.

Police must find out how a list of names of the victims leaked. It could be punished for violating the Personal Information Protection Act. Those who leaked the names can be forced to compensate for the mental pain of the bereaved families. As they started accusing the civic group of such charges, the police and prosecution must find who leaked the names.

The media group commits a violence on the families by riding on the Democratic Party’s campaign to take political gains from the tragedy. After a deputy head of a DP think tank sent a message to the party to obtain the names, photos and profiles of the victims, some DP lawmakers criticized that.
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