A group of discharged journalists from YTN, a TV news provider, have lost a suit against the government, having claimed that the Lee Myung-bak administration conducted illicit surveillance on the broadcaster and its staff.
The Seoul Central District Court on Friday ruled against the plaintiff, composed of three former and one incumbent YTN journalist, who claimed 250 million won ($242,000) in damages from the government.
While the plaintiffs said the Prime Minister’s Office had pressured police to seek arrest warrants for the four reporters, the court said that “it is hard to say that the procedure was not legitimate, as the Prime Minister’s Office has the authority (to initiate criminal actions).”
The police arrested the four on March 22, 2009, on charges of not responding to its summons. The journalists are former YTN union chairman Roh Jong-myun, Hyun Duck-soo, Jo Seoung-ho and incumbent leader of a reporters’ advocacy group, Lim Jang-hyuk.
Roh, Hyun and Jo, all of whom were dismissed by the broadcaster’s management, have been in another legal dispute over their reinstatement demand.
Though the initial verdict said their dismissal was unjustified as they had tried to secure political neutrality, an appellate court ruled that the management’s action was reasonable. A series of trial hearings are being held at the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, the International Federation of Journalists has denounced the Korean government and the company’s management for turning up the heat on the journalists.
The IFJ’s Asia-Pacific bureau said that “the arbitrary arrest of four union leaders on the eve of a major YTN workplace action points to direct intervention by the authorities to weaken planned industrial activities by the YTN staff.”
By Kim Yon-se (firstname.lastname@example.org)