Representatives from UNI Global Union’s Media, Entertainment & Arts sector joined South Korean affiliate the National Media Workers Union (NUMW) at a news conference today in Seoul to urge the Korean government to engage with trade unions in the country – and to stop its attacks on public broadcasting and press freedom.
Since right-wing President, Yoon Suk-yeol, came into power a year ago, the government illegally removed the leaders of public broadcasters to ensure that his preferred candidate was elected head of the Korea Communications Commission (KCC), which oversees public broadcasting.
The KCC is now proposing a ‘fake news eradication plan’, which would effectively allow the government to censor news outlets after making arbitrary ‘fake news’ judgements. The commission could potentially shut down news stations with a ‘one-strike’ rule.
The NUMW says the government is also undermining public broadcasting by separating the public television subscription fee from electricity bills for the first time in nearly 30 years, allowing people to opt out. Fewer resources will impact the quality of public service broadcasting as well as the capacity of its journalism. It could create a situation where public information is only available on commercial channels, rather than public broadcasters whose job it is to provide independent news.
At the same time, the government is seeking to sell its stake in 24-hour news channel YTN –which could further threaten a free press by putting more outlets in government supporters’ hands. NUMW accuses the government of seeking to hand over public assets, with stable ratings and recognition, to private operators, that will have benefitted from its patronage and so be more likely to support the government rather than provide balanced information to the Korean people.
A joint statement from NUMW and UNI Media, Entertainment & Arts said:
“The South Korean government’s media policy, which seeks to make the media an enemy, undermine freedom of expression and increase its approval rating by silencing critical reporting, foretells the decline of Korean democracy, which has served as a model for democracy in Asia.
“We strongly condemn the Korean government, which is running away like a train without brakes to control the media. We strongly support the struggle of conscientious Korean citizens and media workers to protect freedom of expression and democracy in the press. Until this fight is won, media workers around the world will stand in solidarity.”