Netizens Condemn Censorship of Reporting about NIS Scandal

The latest revelation in the unfolding scandal involving South Korea’s spy service interfering in the 2012 presidential campaign involves censorship at news channel MBC. MBC producers censored a prepared news segment about the indictment of National Intelligence Service Chief Won Sei-hoon. MBC staff members claim the order was politically motivated and is part of an effort by the government to hide its wrongdoing during the election.

MBC has long been accused of manipulating the news by both progressives and conservatives. In 2008, newly elected President Lee Myung-bak replaced the head of the company with one of his supporters, leading the MBC labor union to start a general strike against his alleged censorship. On the other hand, conservatives have long criticized a popular MBC program, PD notebook, for biased reporting, notably on mad cow disease in 2008 and about the sinking of the Cheonan. The 2008 reporting on mad cow disease was instrumental in starting the widespread 2008 street protests.

From The Kyunghyang Shinmun:

Current Affairs 2580 ‘National Intelligence Service Segment’ Blocked by Chief Editor

The editing out of a segment entitled ‘What happened at the NIS?’ from an MBC current affairs show on the 23rd of this month has caused an outcry.

Journalists from the show released statements on the morning of the 24th, saying “Although we made efforts to prevent it from being cancelled, our producer in charge of current affairs blocked the broadcast and refused any compromise.” They further added, “the producer responsible for blocking the broadcast should be replaced.”

The original Current Affairs 2580 was scheduled to broadcast “Fear of Dark Dust”, “Renovations Unnoticed by the Association”, and “What happened at the NIS?” The blocked story “What happened at the NIS?” would have included the result of the criminal investigation and prosecution of NIS head Won Sei-hoon, accused of violating public election law and security law, as well as a scheduled discussion by commentators about this controversial issue.

Won Sei-hoon, the former head of the National Intelligence Service

Won Sei-hoon, the former head of the National Intelligence Service

Journalists have made statements alleging that “the producer wished to block the segment ever since it was first planned out four weeks ago. After he allowed the coverage, he demanded journalists include biased views for politically sensitive points.” They said, “the producer directed us to say that this scandal resulted from dirty political maneuvering by former members of the NIS and current members of the Democratic United Party.”

Journalists have said, “in this political conflict it is dangerous for a journalist to include their personal opinion in an article. The editor had ‘The Police Cover Operation’ and ‘Won Sei-hoon’s Remarks in the Executive Session’ removed, changing a thirteen-minute article into a six-minute one.” They also said, “the editor made demands to remove the part on the police record cover up, including the details of Won Sei-hoon’s commands.”

MBC Journalist Lee Hojin, after the broadcast on the 23rd, tweeted “one article was blocked on tonight’s Current Affairs 2580, and we finished after only 30 minutes…the cancellation happened, that’s what will go down in history. But it’s depressing that we have to keep on accepting these outrages.”

Comments from Naver:


Don’t call yourself a free press. You are just a castrated, useless mouthpiece for those in power.


Please give us balanced reporting so it doesn’t get to the same extent as the mad cow disease scandal.


Although they hate commies they follow the drivel of the North Korean regime.


Still complete MBC rubbish!


It’s been a long time since I watched MBC..they were so sleazy… ke ke It is you MBC who needs to reform.. ke ke


The country is going insane again……………………


MBC ruined its own reputation… just 20 years ago, I still had the impression of it as the best in broadcasting.. Now, people have realized over the past 20 years that it is the worst channel out there..


Is this really happening in 2013?


It didn’t work out for PD Notebook, now they are trying to do similar reporting with Current Affairs 2580?


Is it 2013, or 1973?… sleaze, pure sleaze.


Even after getting rid of the corrupt former head of MBC, Kim Jae-cheol, it seems that it is still just a mouthpiece for the government only pretending to be a source of news. Lee Sang-ho, Choi Il-gu, Oh Sang-jin and all of the other former journalists at MBC who fought for freedom of the press have now left, meaning that it is up to viewers to take up the burden of resisting government control of news media. As it is, I’m not watching any of their news or variety programs as a way to boycott. People of Korea, do not believe that MBC is a trustworthy source of news.


It looks like there will be a lot of scandals in the future… so long as the people’s right to know is subverted by whims of the government… how stable could such a society possibly be… what makes this different from telling citizens to cover their ears and shut their mouths…


So it looks like they were getting ready more reports of the same quality of the mad cow disease exposé, when they claimed it could be spread through the air or that you could catch it even if you just wore leather made from American cowhide.


Glad to see this..after the false reporting about  Kim Hyon-hui..the Cheonan sinking..mad cow disease…each time they were proving their reputation for manufacturing stories.. that should have resulted in them closing down.


MBC journalists have already lost the trust of the people. The editor did well when he stopped the broadcast of the mad cow disease story. Why is Kyunghyang even meddling with that? Our nation’s press is pathetic.


Have the NIS investigate MBC’s staff….


Korean media report the facts of a story completely different depending on whether they are aligned with the conservatives or the progressives. Innocence becomes guilt, guilt becomes innocence, it is all changed around. It is all very similar to pointless comments from pitiful netizens who call themselves progressive or conservative. There is no justice, just what is convenient for your viewpoint, what you want to write about. There is no sense of responsibility among journalists or among their audience.


In a situation where it is hard to just maintain objectivity, telling someone to report biased material is itself a problem. Wouldn’t it be best to try to maintain independence for the journalists to provide as much context and information as possible and leave the decision on what to report up to the viewers? Who said you should decide everything for the viewers without their input. Well, I guess some idiots actually want spoon-feeding…

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