Yoon says barring MBC reporters from presidential plane was ‘unavoidable’
President Yoon Suk-yeol said Friday it was “unavoidable” that his office barred local TV station MBC’s reporters from boarding the presidential plane to cover his Southeast Asia trip, given that the broadcaster had engaged in “malicious” reporting.
MBC reporters took commercial flights to cover Yoon’s tour of Cambodia and Indonesia earlier this week after they were informed by the presidential office, two days before his departure, they would not be allowed to board Air Force One due to their repeated “distorted” reporting.
The measure was seen as a response to MBC’s airing of Yoon’s hot mic moment in New York in September, which the broadcaster subtitled to make it appear that he had used vulgar language to refer to U.S. President Joe Biden. The presidential office has denied there was any mention of Biden.
“You are free to criticize me. I am always open to the criticism of the press and the people,” Yoon told reporters as he arrived for work Friday when asked to comment on accusations that he is selective with the press.
“However, excluding MBC from the presidential plane was an unavoidable measure in order to fulfill the president’s responsibility of defending the Constitution, because it showed very malicious behavior in trying to drive a wedge in our alliance relationship, which is a key pillar of our national security, using fake news that is different from the truth,” he said.
Yoon also said the press is one of four pillars of a democracy, along with the legislative, judiciary and executive branches, and that no one would object in the event the judiciary was held to account for delivering rulings using fabricated evidence, even if it is an independent authority.
“I think freedom of the press is important, but responsibility of the press is also very important from the viewpoint that it is a pillar of democracy. And especially if it is related to ensuring the people’s safety, the importance cannot be emphasized enough,” he said.
As the president walked away to go up to his office, an MBC reporter shouted at his back, “What did MBC do that was malicious?”
Earlier the same reporter had asked Yoon what he thought about criticism that it was inappropriate of him to invite only two reporters to his cabin on the flight from Cambodia to Indonesia.
“That’s a personal issue,” Yoon replied. “And it’s not like I was being interviewed.”