The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes the release of YTN labour union chairman Jong-Myun Roh from a Seoul detention centre yesterday.
Roh was arrested and detained on March 22 on the eve of a major strike action by YTN workers as part of their eight-month campaign to secure guarantees of editorial independence at the YTN broadcaster.
While Roh was detained, staff representatives and YTN management continued five days of closed-door negotiations, reaching a nine-point agreement on April 1 committing all parties to seek to develop and implement a code for editorial independence at the broadcaster.
According to the Journalists’ Association of Korea (JAK), an IFJ affiliate, YTN managers also pledged to cancel all legal complaints against staff members, while the union said it would withdraw all complaints but one regarding dismissal and disciplinary measures taken against staff during the dispute.
“While Roh’s release is a welcome development in reaching a resolution at YTN, his freedom needs to be achieved on unconditional grounds,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.
“Removing the leader of a union-based action at such a crucial moment in a dispute between staff and management is a heavy-handed tactic.
“That the YTN staff and management have reached an agreement is a tribute to the strength and commitment of the media workers who stood up for the values of press freedom and editorial independence in South Korea at the risk of their own jobs.”
Upon his release last night, Roh was reported as saying, “Until unfair dismissals are reinstated, YTN will be a prop of editorial independence and I will not stop this struggle.”
Six journalists sacked during the course of the long dispute are yet to be reinstated. Both sides have agreed to leave this matter to court decisions.
The IFJ remains steadfast in its support to the YTN union and JAK and congratulates both organisations for their commitment to preserving press freedom in South Korea.