The press advocacy group Reporters Without Borders on Monday called on the South Korean government to not prosecute the Seoul bureau chief of Japanese daily Sankei Shimbun who is suspected of defaming President Park Geun-hye.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office last month questioned Tatsuya Kato, 48, twice about an article carried in the Aug. 3 online edition of the newspaper.

"It is completely normal for news media to ask questions about the actions of politicians, including the president," Benjamin Ismail, the head of the group's Asia desk, said in a statement posted on the group's website.

"We call on the authorities to drop the charges against Kato and to lift the restrictions on his movements," Ismail said, referring to a travel ban that the office has imposed on Kato.

In the article, Kato, citing rumors in the stock brokerage industry and in a South Korean newspaper, reported that the whereabouts of Park, who is single, had not been verified for a seven-hour period on the day of a ferry disaster in April, and that she may have been secretly meeting with a recently divorced former aide.

Reporters Without Borders noted in the statement that the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo has not been the target of any complaint.