BY SHUTTING DOWN PRESSROOMS in 11 government ministries throughout South Korea yesterday the Roh Moo Hyun administration made a bold move towards controlling the flow of information to the public.
The Korea Times reports that the closure of the rooms – where journalists can hookup their laptops and have ready access to government officials – was met with wide protest. Reporters sat in ministry lobbies and continued to write.
The pressroom closures are part of a new media policy in South Korea, in which reporters are only allowed to use a new central pressroom regardless of their beat and must have permission to meet with government officials when writing an article.
Surprisingly, the more conservative opposition Grand National Party condemned the closure:
The government pressrooms are offered by the people to watch the government, not by the government,” Ahn Sang-soo, the party floor leader, said. “The shutdown is against taxpayers’ wishes.”
The GNP will try to pass a bill to reopen the pressrooms as soon as possible, he said.
The closures have frightening implications for the free flow of information, and raise the question: Why is the government shortening the leash?