IFJ asks South Korean Authorities to Release Journalist Leader

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) calls on authorities in South Korea to immediately release YTN union chairman Jong-Myun Roh, who has been detained for 10 days since being arrested ahead of strike action at the broadcaster.

Roh was arrested on March 22, the day before YTN staff were due to take strike action as part of their long campaign to secure guarantees of editorial independence at the broadcaster. Three other union members arrested on the same day were quickly released.

According to the Journalists’ Association of Korea (JAK), an IFJ affiliate, Roh was transferred yesterday to a detention facility near Seoul.

Roh is expected to lodge a request today for a “review of legality for confinement”. His legal team has been joined by Byung-Hun Min, a renowned Seoul District Court judge who retired this month. A court decision is expected by tomorrow night.

Meanwhile, the YTN strike today entered its ninth day. The strike comes amid an eight-month campaign by YTN workers to defend editorial independence at the broadcaster, following last year’s appointment of Gu Bon-Hong as YTN president. The appointment of Gu, who previously worked as an aide to President Myung-Bak Lee, has raised concerns about potential political influence on the broadcaster.

“The IFJ calls for Jong-Myun Roh to be released immediately. To detain a union leader for 10 days without charge only increases the concerns of the IFJ and other international organisations about the manner in which the authorities and YTN managers are dealing with a dispute centred on the right of media workers to organise around the defence of press freedom,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

“Once again, the IFJ urges YTN’s management to seek constructive dialogue with YTN staff representatives, and to show respect for the workers’ right to express their concerns about the broadcaster’s independence.”

The IFJ will support the staff at YTN in preparing a petition to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression to highlight the manner in which Roh’s arrest and continuing detention violate international standards of freedom of the press, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

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