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Closure of press rooms "an explicit attempt to restrict journalists' access to important government sources", says IFJ

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

Korean government to close press rooms

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned the Korean government's plans to restrict journalists' access to information by closing all but three of their press rooms in government offices.

IFJ affiliate the Journalists Association of Korea (JAK) has refused to accept the proposal amid mounting criticism of the plans, but the government has vowed to go ahead with the closure of the press rooms and the construction of a new briefing centre to replace them, due for completion in late August.

"This plan is an explicit attempt to restrict journalists' access to important government sources," IFJ Asia Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

Fourteen members of the JAK's 20-person committee voted against the plan, and intend to negotiate with the government by suggesting amendments including an allowance for journalists to freely contact public servants, and the preservation of press rooms in some important ministries.

In May, Cabinet approved the bill, dubbed the "Program for Developed News Supporting System for Media", which includes a measure to close government office pressrooms, except for those in complexes in Seoul, Daejeon and Gwacheon.

Opposition to the bill has come from a range of sources.

On June 10, journalists and readers from the Munhwa Ilbo, a leading evening daily in South Korea, filed a constitutional petition claiming that the scheduled closures would infringe on freedom of the press.

"It is vital that the government be held accountable for a policy which is unpopular with its media and its people," Park said.

"Korean citizens deserve to have access to the workings of their government through journalists, who should be able to report directly from the source rather than from manufactured government releases," she said.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries.

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