Asia-Pacific Media Unions Demand Resolution of Korea Press Freedom Crisis
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), UNI Global Union and their affiliates across Asia-Pacific are gravely concerned for journalists and media workers in South Korea who have been sacked and subjected to punitive disciplinary measures due to their courageous struggle for media independence under the Government of Lee Myung Bak.
Thirty-seven international and Asia-Pacific unions of media, graphical and entertainment workers attending the joint IFJ and UNI Global meeting in Bali, Indonesia, on September 29-30 demanded the Lee Government immediately act to restore press freedom in South Korea and direct broadcasters YTN and Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) to reinstate sacked journalists.
Eight journalists – including six from YTN and two from MBC – remain dismissed from their jobs because of their role in advocating for press freedom and independent media at the organisations.
About 160 more journalists have suffered disciplinary sanctions since the Lee Government was inaugurated in 2008. The sanctions include suspensions, pay cuts, warnings and probation orders against workers at YTN, MBC and Korean Broadcasting System (KBS).
Affiliates of the IFJ and UNI called on the Government of South Korea to make a public pledge to respect editorial independence of state-controlled media companies, including YTN, MBC and KBS.
The 51 assembled leaders and representatives of IFJ Asia-Pacific, UNI Global Union, UNI-APRO, UNI-MEI (Media, Entertainment and Arts) and UNI Graphical & Packaging supported a resolution stating, “We demand the Government of South Korea takes immediate action to end repression of journalists and media workers who seek to defend the right to an independent and critical media that serves the public interest.
“Members of our unions and organisations across the region and the world are appalled by the backward steps on press freedom in South Korea since 2008, and will be closely observing the situation at YTN, MBC and KBS.”
The six YTN journalists, all members of the house union and the Journalists’ Association of Korea (JAK), an IFJ affiliate, were sacked on October 6, 2008 – almost exactly two years ago.
The Seoul District Court ruled in November 2009 that the dismissals were an abuse of management’s disciplinary discretion.
The court ordered that YTN house union leader Noh Jong Myeon, reporters Hyun Duk Soo, Jo Seung Ho, Woo Jang Kyun, Jeong Yoo Shin and camera operator Kwon Seok Jae be reinstated and receive full compensation for the period during which they were not permitted to work.
YTN management has refused to comply and is appealing the decision.
In June 2010, MBC sacked two journalists - MBC union leader and producer Lee Keun Heng and Jinju MBC union leader and JAK member Jeong Dae Kyun - on the pretext that they were organizing a strike.
The heart of the problems at these broadcasters is the concerns of journalists and their unions about government controls on state media and their diminished independence due to strong ties between high-ranking government officers and media company managements.
Since the Lee Government’s inauguration, former presidential aides and advisers have been appointed to senior positions at major state-controlled media companies, despite the objections of journalists seeking to defend the independence of the broadcasters.
Affiliates of the IFJ and UNI demand YTN withdraw its appeal against the November court order and immediately reinstate the six sacked journalists in accordance with the court ruling.
They note with concern that YTN has failed to honour its April 2009 commitments in an agreement between management and the house union that internal mechanisms be established to ensure editorial independence at the broadcaster. The agreement was made on the understanding that the union would end protests against the appointment of Ku as CEO and that YTN would abide by the court decision and reinstate the sacked journalists.
The IFJ and UNI call on YTN’s management to end the dispute in accordance with the spirit of the April 2009 agreement, as urged by the IFJ throughout 2009.
The IFJ and UNI further call on MBC’s management to guarantee editorial independence and press freedom at the broadcaster, and reinstate the sacked journalist and producer.
The resolution was adopted by the following organisations on 30 September 2010, Bali:
- International Federation of Journalists Asia-Pacific
- UNI Global Union
- UNI Media, Entertainment & Arts
- UNI Graphical & Packaging
- UNI APRO
- Afghan Independent Journalists’ Association
- Aliansi Jurnalis Independen, Indonesia
- All India Newspaper Employees’ Federation
- Asosiasi Serikat Pekerja Indonesia
- Association of Taiwan Journalists
- Bangkok Post LU
- Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists
- Engineering, Printing, and Manufacturing Union, New Zealand
- Federation of Independent Media Workers’ Unions, Indonesia
- Free Media Movement, Sri Lanka
- Hong Kong Journalists’ Association
- Indian Journalists’ Union
- Journalists’ Association of Korea
- Maldives Journalists’ Association
- Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, Australia
- Maharashtra Media Employees’ Union
- National Alliance of Broadcasting Unions, Philippines
- National Union of Journalists of the Philippines
- National Union of Journalists, India
- National Union of Journalists, Malaysia
- National Union of Media Workers, Korea
- National Union of Newspaper Workers, Malaysia
- Nepal Press Union
- Nepal Television Employees’ Association
- New Zealand Public Service Association
- Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists
- Shimbun Roren - Japan Federation of Newspaper Workers’ Unions
- Sindicato dos Jornalistas de Timor Leste
- Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association
- System Television Malaysia Berhad Employees Union - KSKSTMB
- Timor Lorosae Journalists’ Association
- Union of Public Services, Nepal