Religious leaders back media strike
Long-running dispute a result of government efforts to 'gag the press,' they say
The press conference
Leaders of the country’s major religions have voiced their support for striking journalists who have been protesting for more than 70 days against what they say is censorship by politically biased management.
The strike has resulted from "the suppression and control of the press by the current government," they said in a statement read out at a press conference at the Press Center in Seoul on April 6.
The statement was signed by 257 priests, pastors, and monks.
"The people's desire for new alternative media shows they want the press criticizing injustice and disclosing the truth," the statement said. The government must stop "its irrational policy to gag the press," it added.
Around 700 workers from the country’s second biggest broadcaster, Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation, began the strike on Jan 30, and called for the resignation of their CEO, who they accuse of censoring stories critical of President Lee Myung-bak.
They were quickly followed by 1,000 workers at the largest broadcaster, Korea Broadcasting Station. Workers from Yonhap Television News joined the strike on March 8 and those from Yonhap News Agency walked out on March 15.
They say management has limited coverage of stories ranging from protests against free trade agreements to a controversy surrounding the alleged “illegal” purchase of land for President Lee’s retirement home.
Jesuit Father Peter Choi Young-min who signed the statement said the government, which is supposed to promote "the freedom of the press" has used "the media for its own purposes by parachuting in presidential cronies" to run the country’s major media stations.
Father Choi, director of the Ignatius Media Communications, said "many people have shown support for the strike through social networks," though the mainstream media has not covered it.
"Religious leaders voicing support for the strike shows that the violation of free speech in this country is very serious," said Cho Sang-un, the union head of the Kuminilbo daily.