[ED] Public's right to know - The Korea Times

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[ED] Public's right to know

New press guidelines should not be used to tame news media

A set of new press guidelines barring the disclosure of details about criminal cases went into effect Sunday amid concerns that the Ministry of Justice's directive will keep the public in the dark, especially regarding corruption cases involving bigwigs.

In principle, prosecutors and investigators are prohibited from talking to reporters about criminal cases and presenting any information about a case that is ongoing. Journalists are barred from entering offices where prosecutors and investigators are working. The ministry also banned prosecutors from having "tea-time" sessions or media briefings. Instead, all district prosecutors' offices will appoint officials in charge of media relations. It's a relief that the ministry withdrew the controversial clause that could enable the prosecution to slap an entry ban on journalists who make erroneous reports.

Announcing its draft guidelines in late October, the ministry stressed the need to prevent the disclosure of specific details of criminal cases such as charges. Given that the prosecution's reckless revelation of sensitive information has caused a lot of side effects, the ministry's argument could be justifiable. The guidelines will be useful in ensuring the human rights of suspects and enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of investigations, if implemented properly.

Yet the ministry's directive seems to raise more questions than it answers. As press coverage of prosecutorial affairs is bound to decrease, the public's right to know will certainly be undermined, thereby hampering the freedom of the press. Furthermore, news media will have difficulty in investigating and reporting on corruption and other cases the government wants to cover up or hide.

If the ministry does not mean to restrict their free press activities, it should remove the clauses that could infringe on the public's constitutional right to know. If not, the ministry will invite criticism that the guidelines were adopted to cover up high-profile political cases that could be revealed during the remainder of the Moon Jae-in administration.



New press guidelines should not be used to tame news media

A set of new press guidelines barring the disclosure of details about criminal cases went into effect Sunday amid concerns that the Ministry of Justice's directive will keep the public in the dark, especially regarding corruption cases involving bigwigs.

In principle, prosecutors and investigators are prohibited from talking to reporters about criminal cases and presenting any information about a case that is ongoing. Journalists are barred from entering offices where prosecutors and investigators are working. The ministry also banned prosecutors from having "tea-time" sessions or media briefings. Instead, all district prosecutors' offices will appoint officials in charge of media relations. It's a relief that the ministry withdrew the controversial clause that could enable the prosecution to slap an entry ban on journalists who make erroneous reports.

Announcing its draft guidelines in late October, the ministry stressed the need to prevent the disclosure of specific details of criminal cases such as charges. Given that the prosecution's reckless revelation of sensitive information has caused a lot of side effects, the ministry's argument could be justifiable. The guidelines will be useful in ensuring the human rights of suspects and enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of investigations, if implemented properly.

Yet the ministry's directive seems to raise more questions than it answers. As press coverage of prosecutorial affairs is bound to decrease, the public's right to know will certainly be undermined, thereby hampering the freedom of the press. Furthermore, news media will have difficulty in investigating and reporting on corruption and other cases the government wants to cover up or hide.

If the ministry does not mean to restrict their free press activities, it should remove the clauses that could infringe on the public's constitutional right to know. If not, the ministry will invite criticism that the guidelines were adopted to cover up high-profile political cases that could be revealed during the remainder of the Moon Jae-in administration.





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