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Government cuts Internet connections in press rooms to force reporters into new briefing centres; IPI board member protests press freedom restrictions

(IPI/IFEX) - The following is an IPI press release:

IPI Board Member Stages Protest Against Press Freedom Restrictions in South Korea

Vienna, 23 October 2007 - The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in over 120 countries, expresses its support for the silent protest staged by its Board Member So-whan Hyon in front of the government complex in Seoul.
Hyon, who is the editor-in-chief of News and and former President and CEO of Yonhap News Agency, has been protesting the South Korean government's Measures for Developing an Advanced Media Support System (AMSS), which restrict reporters' entry to government offices and prevent public servants from talking with journalists freely, thus also limiting the public's right to know.

In various letters to South Korea's President Roh Moo-hyun, as well as in conversations with representatives of the Korean government, IPI has repeatedly expressed concern about the reforms contained in the AMSS, in particular the requirement for staff members working at ministries to report their contacts with journalists to their supervisors in advance.

These restrictions represent a grave violation of the fundamental right to confidentiality of sources of information.

Both the Korean Newspaper Association and the Journalist Federation of Korea, together with numerous international organizations, have protested the government's reforms and called for an immediate halt to the ongoing "suppression of the press."

Furthermore, IPI was disturbed at reports that, on 11 October, the South Korean government cut Internet connections at the press rooms located within ministry buildings, in an attempt to force reporters to move to the new integrated briefing centres at the two government complexes in downtown Seoul and Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province, according to the Korea Herald. The government also plans to complete the eviction of reporters by locking the press dispatch rooms and moving out all furniture and belongings.

It is reported that, as a consequence of the Measures, the number of press briefing rooms was reduced from 37 to three.

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