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Harassment campaign targets three main newspapers, seeks to influence editorial policies

(IPI/IFEX) - The following is an IPI letter to South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak:

H.E. President Lee Myung-Bak
President of the Republic of Korea
Office of the President
1 Cheongwadae-ro, Jongno-gu
Seoul, Republic of Korea

Vienna, 26 June 2008

Your Excellency,

The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in over 120 countries, would like to express its deep concern about recent pressures exerted on the independent media in South Korea, including the three main newspapers, the Chosun Ilbo, the Dong-A Ilbo and the Joong-Ang Ilbo.

According to information before IPI, unidentified "netizens" in South Korea have attempted to influence the editorial policies of the three major newspapers by various means, including the distribution of leaflets and stickers containing insulting language, as well as telephone campaigns aimed at harassing advertisers into withdrawing their advertisements in these papers. In addition, hundreds of individuals have surrounded the publications' buildings at night time, and painted the windows and walls with threatening slogans.

While IPI believes that lobbying is an important and legitimate part of functioning democracies, the pressure exerted on the three major newspapers in South Korea is disconcerting in a democratic society.

IPI is particularly concerned that advertisers, among others, have been pressured into withdrawing their advertising from the publications, and regards these actions as unacceptable attempts to interfere with their editorial independence.

IPI supports the statement of the Korean Newspaper Publishers Association, which said the attacks against the advertisers will pressure the management of the newspapers and their editorial policies, and infringe upon freedom of the press.

IPI therefore calls upon your Excellency to speak out against these organized campaigns designed to interfere with editorial independence and press freedom in South Korea.

Yours sincerely,

David Dadge

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