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2014年10月11日 (土)

産経前支局長 韓国ならではの「政治的」起訴

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Indictment of former Sankei bureau chief suggests political motivation
産経前支局長 韓国ならではの「政治的」起訴

It is an exercise of governmental authority far removed from the reaction expected of a democratic nation.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office has indicted without arrest the former chief of The Sankei Shimbun’s Seoul Bureau. He has been charged with defamation under South Korea’s information and communications network law. The indictment alleges a column posted on the Sankei website in August damaged the reputation of South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

This appears to be a politically motivated indictment following the wishes of the Blue House, which had declared it would pursue criminal responsibility in this case. The pressure being applied to the media is absolutely unacceptable.

We wonder if this was intended to punish a Japanese media organization that printed an article irksome to the Park administration, against the backdrop of anti-Japan sentiment in South Korea.

Freedom of the press is an essential principle that shapes a democratic society.

It is conventional wisdom in the international community that in nations where democratic politics have become established, a criminal prosecution based on the content of a media report should be restrained as much as possible.

The Seoul Foreign Correspondents’ Club, a club for foreign media organizations with offices in South Korea, announced it was “deeply concerned” about the indictment, and said it could interfere with the freedom of the media.

The online column in question reported there were “rumors” Park had met with a man on the day of the Sewol ferry disaster in April. The report included quotes from a column in the Chosun Ilbo, a major South Korean newspaper.

The Sankei bureau chief also added original information from his own “political sources” that insinuated Park was in a “close relationship” with another man.

Another strain on bilateral ties

The indictment concludes that these rumors have been confirmed as untrue. It insists the former bureau chief “accentuated false information as being true” through the Internet.

The former bureau chief has left himself wide open to criticism for readily writing an article based on a rumor. Nevertheless, criminal prosecution in this case is going too far. He has already been banned from leaving South Korea for more than 60 days. This also breaches the basic human right of freedom of movement.

The Sankei Shimbun has demanded the indictment be retracted, and insists the column about the movements of the South Korean president, a public figure, “had a bearing on the public good.”

It is only natural that there should be a different response when someone’s reputation has been tarnished, depending on whether they are a public official such as a politician who has opportunities to give their side of the story, or a private individual who does not.

The Blue House lodged a protest with The Sankei Shimbun. Records that show the president’s movements on the day in question were shown to the National Assembly. We think Park’s reputation should already have been restored on this issue.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida has expressed concern about the indictment, saying it could have an impact “on the freedom of the press and Japan-South Korea relations.” In meetings with his South Korean counterpart in August and September, Kishida had urged the South Korean side to handle the matter carefully.

The forcible indictment of the former bureau chief could develop into a diplomatic problem. That could further complicate efforts to patch up bilateral ties between Japan and South Korea.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 10, 2014)Speech


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