The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes the activation
of a Joint Fairness Commission as an independent dispute resolution mechanism
between staff and management at the YTN television station in South Korea.
However, the IFJ calls on YTN management to show good will by reinstating
six employees who were sacked in October 2008 as a result of the long-running
dispute at YTN.
After almost a year of in-house turmoil including management-led
sanctions against staff, bans on union members, and court arbitration, an
agreement to protect editorial independence and promote fair reporting – the
“YTN fairness pact” – was reached between YTN staff and management in June,
according to the Journalists’ Association of Korea (JAK), an IFJ affiliate.
The pact states that internal complaints against Gu Bon-Hong, YTN’s CEO and a former aide to South Korean President
Myung-Bak Lee, are to be brought before the previously inactive fairness commission. Lee’s
appointment as CEO in July 2008 triggered the dispute due to staff concerns about YTN’s editorial independence under
The pact also states that the commission should meet
regularly, including at the request of either staff or management. Its first meeting was held on June 18.
In another development on May 22, the prosecutor’s office
issued formal indictments against four YTN union leaders for obstructing
business – Jong Myun Roh, Hyun Duck-So, Cho Seoung-Ho and Lim Jang-Hyuck.
The indictments override the YTN management’s withdrawal of
complaints against the journalists. However, JAK reports that the indicted
journalists have decided to face trial.
The withdrawal of complaints followed a nine-point agreement
committing all parties to develop and implement a code for editorial
independence. The agreement was reached in April, as a result of negotiations
following the March 22 arrest of YTN labour union chairman Jong-Myun Roh on the
eve of a major strike action. He was released on April 3.
The April agreement also says that the union and the
management will follow a court decision on the issue of reinstating the sacked journalists.
Meanwhile, the IFJ is also concerned to learn that police
searched the email accounts of up to 20 YTN labour union members in March, with
the authorisation of the prosecutor’s office.
“The Joint Fairness Commission is a positive step forward.
However, YTN management must demonstrate its stated commitment of good will by
immediately reinstating all journalists dismissed as a result of this dispute,”
IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0919
represents over 600,000 journalists in
120 countries worldwide