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IFJ condemns political interference in management of major broadcast media, government action against critical television programme

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

The International Federation of Journalists today condemned changes being made in the management of major broadcast media in Korea which amount to political interference.

According to the IFJ local affiliate, the Korean Association of Journalists (JAK), the government of Lee Myung Bak, which took over in February, is trying to manipulate media to suit their political tastes by appointing executives to state-run broadcasting and some key public enterprises who are his supporters.

The IFJ says the Lee government has already appointed his close associates to presidencies of SKY LIFE satellite broadcasting and 24 hours news channel YTN, both of which supported his presidential campaign.

The chief executives of Korea Broadcasting Advertising Corporation and the English broadcasting company Arirang TV were under pressure with proposals to change senior management in favour of government supporters.

Korean journalists are seriously concerned about the threat to press freedom if the most powerful broadcasting company's CEO is expelled in the middle of the tenure and filled with president's associate.

"There is a feeling that the bosses of Korean media are being systematically replaced with government cronies," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "If that happens it will be a catastrophe for press freedom in the country."

At the same time, the Lee government is trying to control television programmes that are critical of the government, say local journalists. Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation is under court investigation over a programme dealing with a beef trade deal with the United States which the JAK says is against press freedom and is in breach of the promise protecting journalists. Although JAK and other civic groups have continuously protested at this dictatorial behavior over media policy, there have been no improvements.

"The situation is unacceptable and must change," said Aidan White. "It will be a disaster if Korea returns to the oppressive policies of the past. And we call on the Korean government to stop controlling media and to support the efforts of Korean journalists to build press freedom and social justice."

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide.

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