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:

defr****:

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

rkrb****:

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

mmpo****:

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

ondr****:

Still complete MBC rubbish!

csta****:

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

meta****:

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

juny****:

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..

seam****:

Is this really happening in 2013?

orbi****:

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

sori****:

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

zair****:

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.

sams****:

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…

orbi****:

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.

ksrr****:

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.

shot****:

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.

john****:

Have the NIS investigate MBC’s staff….

rejo****:

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.

hbre****:

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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  • lonetrey / Dan

    Someone who had the capability of writing articles that cannot be misunderstood as biased in any way would find this a opportunity to make a name for themselves!

    Anyways, why is it so hard to have a trustworthy news outlet? Simply write without ambition yet hold a high standard of quality, and you might be able to do something significant!

    Or follow the newscasters’ lead on American Youtube and have South Korean citizens broadcast what their interpretations of the news is, switch their attention away from Big Business News Media.

    I understand that this coming from an American citizen might sound a little hypocritical. I guess I’m too used to the small(er) brand of news reporting. I might very well say the same things said in the translated comments section about USA’s big media companies! (Fox News comes to mind.)

    • Paul M

      I remember reading some time ago on this site (I think) that more and more Koreans are turning to the internet to get their news instead of relying on the mainstream broadcasters. And speaking of alternative American news broadcasters I quite enjoy watching ‘The Young Turks’ on youtube.

      • pingu777

        Phillip DeFranco FTW!

        • lonetrey / Dan

          That’s actually the example i had in my head, but DeFranco is also more of a liberal than conservative. “Libertarian” he calls himself. Hence why I didn’t mention him since he’s admittedly biased too.

          • pingu777

            True. Just like Fox News and CNN which is why I get most of my news from BBC.

    • markus peg

      every newscasters has an agenda seen or secret, they all have one.
      Even ones as big and as respectable as the BBC has its own hidden agendas.

      • lonetrey / Dan

        I feel like we could actually trust KoreaBang and ChinaSmack though. Has the wool been pulled over my eyes?

        They’ve even come out and straight out said that they just want to share popular topics from these countries with the rest of the world…. not sure what ulterior motive Fauna and company could have…

        • markus peg

          I don’t class China smack as a news company although it does translate hot topics into English. i was mainly referring to websites/TVstations that cover news stories across the world. However, you never know, even Chinasmack may have some ulterior motive that we are unaware off. [no offense Chinasmack, i love you all the same =]

          ps: Dan, i feel you would enjoy/be interested in these 2 website links:

          http://www.ministryoftofu.com/ [kinda like chinasmack with different stories]

          & http://www.chinalawblog.com/ [VERY intresting it talks more about laws and business operations in China, well worth a look.

          please take a look.

        • Sillian

          kBang and cSmack are news sources now? o_o

        • Balotelli2012

          “Fauna” and company are sponsered and 80% funded by National Endowment for Democracy. Aka Central Intelligence(CIA) branch headquared in Langley Virginia. Agenda? You decide for yourself I’m not the savior of brainwashed sheeple.

          • lonetrey / Dan

            … I don’t even know what the last sentence means!

            Also, I don’t think they really are funded by the CIA… just a hunch.

    • yondae

      I-l-l-uminati at work! (half joking/half not)

      I suppose the journalism industry in Korea is in real decline, due to rising costs and competition (From what I’ve heard from several PR professionals). There’s not really that much exciting news that comes from this place, I guess (or at least not that people want to hear that much about). Therefore, I’ve heard that many news outlets and newspapers take the “Maeil Business News” standard which is where a company basically pays to write it’s own article that is presented as ‘news’. It’s a damn shame.

  • pingu777

    All they’re doing is discrediting themselves and making people pursue alternative outlets for their news. I wonder if they Korean government has the capabilities to censor the internet. No wait…they do. Well I just hope they don’t censor tor and proxies.

  • chucky3176

    Korean media is trash. I don’t believe half the stuff they emit. I think their biggest problem is not censorship, but it’s their use of the media to abuse their power, and they are lazy in fact checking. They like to hype up the story to generate hype, to sell their struggling news business. Once they take a stand on an issue, they not only bother to check out the facts of the opposing views, they’ll even manufacture their facts to enforce their positions. There have been attempts by Korean netizens to start their own internet press, like the Ohmynews. But those too have been misused and abused by those who have other agendas, namely spreading of radical leftist viewpoints. It’s a good ideal on paper, but it’s also poisoned by a minority of radicals. Many young Koreans have turned away from the main stream news, and that’s why they are vulnerable to internet rumors and conspiracy theories.

    • A Gawd Dang Mongolian

      A news agency that puts profit ahead of actual facts?

      Oh what a shock.

  • Reila90

    So many scandals unfolded these days.

  • KCdude

    Here in Korea conspiracy theories are more convincing than the mainstream news or internet news after all these years.

  • commander

    The boradcasting network’s attempt to stand in the way of news reporting with respect to the indictment of the spy agency chief for his alleged presidential elections interference may point to a possible shadowy alliance to erect a firewall against any pernicious effects on former president Lee Myung-bak.

    The speculated motivation behind the spy agency’s head intervening in the 2012 presidential poll in favor of then ruling party’s presidential contender Park Geun-hye is that if opposition challenger Moon Jae-in is elected into Blue House, the potentially destructive business scandal involving Mr. Lee before taking office will be reopened for thorough investigation, observers say.

    This political prospect sets the stage for Mr. Lee to give the post of the spy agency’s head to one of his stauch supporters, and the indicted top intelligence official was detained for what he did what he was expected to do: druming up support for Ms. Park’s victory in the presidential election, a development that many political commentators predict will bring Mr. Lee off the hook from a controversial business deal that he made as a businessman.

    This political speculation seems to be reinforced by the alleged blockage of news reports on the prosecution of the spy agency chief by MBC, a major television networking firm whose head also was appointed by Mr. Lee, a move that stired controversy over the Lee administration’s possible control of media and the firm’s damaged reporting fairness.

    The spy agency’s contentious intervention in the presidential poll has been eclipsed by the ruling party’s shrewd political maneuvers of bringing up the late President Roh’s alleged remarks to the effect that the present maritime border with North Korea can be redrawn father south.

    This political tactics proved a considerable success in diverting public attention from the spy agency’s foul play.

    Although a bill of bipartisan probe into the election interference scandal has been passed at thr parliament, it appears that probing who is ultimately behind the scandal–to rephrase it, whether Mr. Lee gave an implicit order to Mr. Won for making things in favor of Ms. Park–is being pushed from the media’s spotlight, as epitomized by the controversial obstuction of news reports delivering Mr. Won’s indictment.

    Amid the political turmoil making it hard to forecast future political developments, one thing is sure to be remarked: The South Korean embassies in the United States have long been wiretapped, media outlets say.

    Isn’t the protection of overseas embassies from espionage the basic mission for the nation’s spy agency?

    The spy agency’s shadowy operation should put a more focus on abroad intelligence gathering and offering safeguards from outside eavesdropping to embassies in foreign countries amid concerns over US globsl surveillance activity that poses a grave challenge to state soverignty.

  • takasar1

    its almost as if these netizens dont know anything about the world that we live in. power talks and money talks even louder.

  • Jae Hee

    Southkorea TV stations don’t air Nationwide demonstrations against #NISgate

    http://storify.com/wjsfree/july-13th-nationwide-demonstrations-against-nisgat

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