(EDITORIAL from the Korea Herald March 24)
Ruling party set to ‘reform’ media in bid to shift blame for election defeat
The ruling Democratic Party of Korea is forging a strange logic for defeat in the March 9 presidential election. Its misguided target is none other than the media. In the opinion of the Democratic Party, the party and its former candidate have been innocent victims of so-called “fake news”.
Representative Yun Ho-jung, who is now the party’s acting leader, told a press briefing on Sunday that the party plans to focus on media reform and revealed its unwavering determination to fight against journalists. .
“To ensure national unity, the people’s right to know and the independence of the press, there is an urgent need to reform the media,” Yun said.
The two main reactions of some ruling party lawmakers are bewilderment and embarrassment.
One of the main reasons for the defeat in the extremely tight presidential race is the Moon Jae-in administration’s continued failure to rein in soaring property prices and runaway taxes, not the media.
Yun’s remark refers to the ruling party’s failed attempt to pass controversial media reform legislation last year. The proposal to revise the media law, however, collapsed in September amid growing public criticism over the unilateral act of the Democratic Party holding a supermajority.
Even President Moon backed down from the revision bill in the face of strong backlash from journalists, scholars and civic groups at home and abroad. The bill sought to impose crippling restrictions on journalists by imposing prohibitive penalties for factual errors in reporting.
During the presidential campaign, Lee Jae-myung of the ruling party claimed that ongoing criminal complaints and lawsuits were not enough to solve all media-related issues.
Of course, media deliberately producing a torrent of false information should be punished by law, but the ruling party’s proposal to impose crippling penalties on top of current legal regulations and media arbitration systems is hard to fathom. .
Yun’s latest comment in this regard is only a reflection of the underlying sense of victimhood that has long plagued the ruling party. It’s a negative perception that does nothing to improve the media industry, which is grappling with a multitude of challenges.
Yun is not alone in blaming the media. A senior ruling Liberal Party official reportedly said the media law should be revised to halve the number of general programming cable channels. From the point of view of members of the ruling party, the channels in question lean unfairly towards the main opposition party, the People Power Party.
It is difficult to understand the argument that a cable channel should be closed because it produced negative reports on a political party. One of the main roles of the news media is to continue to report on politicians and their activities, whether that reporting has a positive or negative tone.
False reporting should be avoided, but the current Media Arbitration Commission deals with complaints about incorrect or malicious reporting. The commission continues to play its role as a gatekeeper for journalists and the media, as well as the related justice system designed to block fake news.
The ruling party’s so-called “reform plan” for the media industry is a thinly veiled attempt to tame the media ahead of local elections in June. The party’s decision to shut down conservative cable channels by abusing its supermajority in the National Assembly is a good example.
In fairness, more urgent is reform of the beleaguered Democratic Party, whose members have yet to realize how their unilateral passages of various bills have generated serious side effects. And that is why freedom of the press is all the more important.