A coalition of journalists’ organizations in the country issued a statement demanding that his office remove the restriction
Journalists’ organizations say South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol attacked press freedom when his office banned a TV broadcaster’s crew from traveling on his presidential plane this week, over allegedly biased reporting .
Yoon previously accused MBC of undermining the country’s alliance with the United States, after posting a video suggesting he insulted members of the US Congress, following a meeting with the US president. Joe Biden in New York in September.
Yoon’s office told MBC it would not provide the broadcaster with “reporting assistance” during its upcoming trips to Cambodia and Indonesia for Association of Southeast Asian Nations meetings. (ASEAN) and the Group of 20 (G20) because of what he described as “repeated distortion and biased reporting” on diplomatic issues.
Yoon, a conservative who took office in May, on Thursday doubled down on his decision to exclude MBC reporters from his plane, saying “important national interests” were at stake. He leaves for Cambodia on Friday to attend meetings of ASEAN and will be in Indonesia the following week for the G20 meetings. He will also participate in a trilateral summit on Sunday with Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Cambodia to discuss the growing threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.
“The reason the President uses so much taxpayers’ money to travel abroad is because important national interests are at stake and that’s also why we provided assistance to journalists covering diplomatic and security issues. “, Yoon said.
“[I] I hope the decision can be understood from that perspective,” he said of letting MBC reporters off his plane, which would exclude them from in-flight briefings and other opportunities. media.
In statements provided to The Associated Press, MBC said Yoon’s office ignored press freedom and democratic principles, and would always send journalists to Cambodia and Indonesia on commercial flights to cover the trip. of Yoon in order to serve the “public’s right to know”.
A coalition of journalists’ organizations, including the Korea Journalists Association and the National Union of Media Workers, issued a statement demanding that Yoon’s office withdraw what it described as an “unconstitutional and ahistorical restriction on reporting,” and for presidential officials involved in the decision to step down.
“The presidential plane is operated with taxpayers’ money and each media outlet pays with its own money to cover reporting costs,” they said.
“Reporting and monitoring how the President, as a public figure, discharges his public responsibilities and duties is an essential part of democracy. We cannot suppress our astonishment that the presidential office confuses the use of the presidential aircraft by journalists with the use of private property and considers it a handout offered by Yoon Suk Yeol the individual,” the statement read.
The groups further compared the incident to when the White House – under former US President Donald Trump – suspended CNN correspondent Jim Acosta’s press pass after he had a heated conversation with Trump during a a press conference.
Seoul-based newspaper Hankyoreh voluntarily gave up its seats on Yoon’s plane to protest the “undemocratic attempt to control the media”, and said its reporters would use commercial flights to cover meetings in South Asia. South East.
It was not immediately clear whether other news outlets planned to reject the presidential flight in solidarity with MBC.
In September, MBC filmed Yoon talking to aides and senior diplomats after a brief chat with Biden on the sidelines of UN General Assembly meetings.
While the audio was unclear, Yoon could be heard using what appeared to be indecent language during comments which the broadcaster captioned as follows:
“Wouldn’t it be too embarrassing for Biden if those idiots in the legislature don’t approve?”
Yoon’s meeting with Biden came after they both gave speeches in support of the Global Fund, an international campaign to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. The Biden administration has pledged $6 billion in US contributions to the initiative through 2025, but it is awaiting congressional approval. Yoon’s government pledged $100 million.
Yoon’s office later insisted he wasn’t talking about the US Congress or Biden. Kim Eun Hye, Yoon’s spokesman, said he feared South Korea’s opposition-controlled National Assembly might reject his plans to contribute $100 million. She insisted that the word heard by MBC as Biden was actually “nal-li-myeon,” a phrase that can be used to describe something being thrown around.
After returning to Seoul, Yoon said the media could put South Korea’s security at risk by “damaging the alliance with information that differs from the facts.” He has not yet clarified whether he called South Korean lawmakers “idiots”.
Yoon’s predecessors have also been accused of suppressing free speech.
Former liberal President Moon Jae In has come under international criticism after members of his ruling party in 2019 pointed the finger at a South Korean-born Bloomberg reporter for what they called a article “bordering on treason”, resulting in threats to the safety of the journalist.
The headline of the article described Moon serving as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s ‘main spokesperson’ at the United Nations General Assembly, and went on to describe his efforts to salvage failed nuclear diplomacy with the North. .
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Under Moon’s conservative predecessor Park Geun Hye, prosecutors indicted a Japanese journalist for defaming Park citing salacious rumors about her whereabouts the day a ferry sank that killed more than 300 people in 2014.
Before Park, former President Lee Myung Bak was criticized for arresting an anti-government blogger and accused of turning major news networks into his mouthpieces by filling their leadership with supporters and making them compete on a small number of new television licenses issued by its government.