Afrique Ameriques Europe Moyen-Orient Internet Nations unies
South Korea 25 March 2009

Public TV journalist arrested as a result of government complaint

Reporters Without Borders calls for the immediate release of Chun Keun Lee, a journalist employed by public TV station MBC, who was arrested this evening in Seoul on the orders of the prosecutor’s office.

When a Reporters Without Borders representative met Lee earlier today, he said he knew he might be arrested in connection with a report about beef imports from the United States. After Lee’s arrest, the representative went to MBC headquarters to express the organisation’s solidarity with other journalists who might be arrested for the same reason.

“Arresting a journalist at night in order to take him before a prosecutor is an abusive procedure that does no credit to South Korean democracy, especially as it was the government that brought the complaint,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This arrest is meant as a punishment for an MBC journalist who produced an investigative programme that was one of the triggers of last year’s anti-government rioting.”

The press freedom organisation added: “We call for Lee’s immediate release and the withdrawal of the agriculture ministry complaint that led to his arrest.”

Lee and his wife were driving in a car near MBC headquarters when its path was suddenly blocked at 10:20 p.m. by two or three unmarked cars. Police got out and presented him with a summons to go to the prosecutor’s office. When he declined to go, they presented him with an arrest warrant and took him by force. He is currently held at the office of the Seoul prosecutor.

When Reporters Without Borders met Lee earlier today, he had already been summoned by the prosecutor in connection with the broadcast that set off the widespread protests, which was broadcast in April 2008 on the MBC investigative programme PD Note. The agriculture ministry accused the programme’s journalists of defamation earlier this month on the grounds of “small translation errors.”

Speaking to Reporters Without Borders a few hours before his arrest, Lee said: “I reject the legality of the entire proceedings initiated against us by the government. Ninety-nine percent of our information was correct and, anyway, we already apologised for the translation errors. This case is a threat to the democratic system (...) Yes, I am afraid of being arrested.”

Lee and his colleagues face up to five years in prison.

Chun Keun Lee

In this country
20 April - South Korea
Court acquits blogger known as “Minerva”
2 April - South Korea
Management and union reach deal at troubled TV news station
23 March - South Korea
Four TV union activists held in Seoul police station
12 January - South Korea
Blogger arrested for allegedly destabilising currency markets
27 April - Korea/Beijing Olympics
Call for release of Chinese and North Korean prisoners of conscience before Olympic torch relay in Seoul and Pyongyang

in the annual report
South Korea - Annual report 2008
South Korea - Annual report 2007
Singapore - Annual report 2006
South Korea - Annual report 2006

4 May 2009 - Nepal
Mission report : A call to end violence and impunity
2 April 2009 - Pakistan
Fact-finding visit by Reporters Without Borders to Swat “valley of fear”
16 March 2009 - Afghanistan
Report of fact-finding mission : Press freedom in free-fall in run-up to presidential election

Asia archives
2009 archives
2008 archives
2007 archives
2006 archives
2005 archives
2004 archives
2003 archives
2002 archives
2001 archives
2000 archives

Asia press releases
3 June - North Korea
Pyongyang judges asked to be lenient with two American journalists
3 June - Afghanistan
US forces arrest a journalist in Khost
3 June - China
“Tank Man” photo displayed outside Chinese embassy in Paris on eve of Tiananmen Square massacre
2 June - China
Blocking of Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Blogger deprives Chinese of Web 2.0
2 June - Sri Lanka
Press freedom activist badly beaten in Colombo, hospitalised