Tue, Jan 09, 2001 - Page 1 News List

Lack of evidence flusters magazine

LOOKING FOR A WAY OUT 'The Journalist' says it lacks proof to back up its story, blaming Vice President Lu for abusing her powers by having records deleted

By Joyce Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Journalist (新新聞) admitted yesterday that it lacked any concrete evidence to prove Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) had spoken with one its top editors.

But at the same time it blamed Lu for erasing telephone records which would have revealed she was spreading rumors of an affair in the Presidential Office and trying to undermine President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

The president of The Journalist, Wang Chien-chuang (王健壯), said yesterday at a late night press conference that the story was based on two phone calls between Yang Chao (楊照), the magazine's editor-in-chief, and Lu on Nov. 3.

Yang, who received a message from Lu and then had a conversation with her, said he had no way of recording their dialogue.

"When Yang received Lu's phone calls, he was in the car on his way home. There was no way for him to tape their conversation. Besides, criminal law prohibits phone taping [without consent] as a violation of privacy," Wang said.

"The scenario we were most concerned about has happened," Wang added.

Wang said that the incoming calls made by Lu had not shown up on Yang's phone records, therefore, he suspected that Lu had exerted the powers of her office to alter Yang's incoming phone records.

Lu's lawyers flatly denied the accusation two hours later.

"[The media] has reached a verdict [on Lu] before any trial has been conducted. They kept [unfairly] accusing Lu of conspiracy based on what she had said or done [without evidence]," Lu's lawyer, Chiu Ya-wen (邱雅文), said at a press conference to rebut the magazine's accusation.

In a written press release Chiu argued that while the media has the right to report the truth it also needs to back its reports up with evidence.

"Such a serious accusation has the capability of shaking the nation's foundations," Chiu said in the release. "Lu's name must be cleared."

The libel suit between Lu and the magazine is expected to have its first trial hearing on Friday. Both parties have previously requested the details of Yang's incoming and outgoing telephone calls between 10pm to midnight on Nov. 3 -- a pivotal piece of evidence to be used in court to potentially bolster the libel case, or sink it.

After Lu filed the libel suit against The Journalist on Dec. 21, Yang said that he had received Lu's telephone calls, in which she intentionally circulated details of Chen's alleged extra-martial affair with his aide and translator Bikhim Hsiao (蕭美琴). Yang and Lu have been accusing each other of lying ever since.

Yang dismissed accusations that the magazine had conjured up a lie just to boost circulation, which later became difficult to patch up, he said.

"How could my luck be so bad as to pick a date when the vice president coincidentally placed absolutely no outgoing calls," Yang said yesterday at the press conference, adding that Lu's telephone records showed that she made several calls the midnight before and after Nov. 3.

While Lu did not make any telephone calls on her mobile phone on Nov 3, she did make some from her home, one of Lu's lawyer said.

"This explains why there are no telephone records showing calls from her mobile," said Yu Mei-nu (尤美女), another member of Lu's legal team.

Yang said that many other illogical details had cast doubt on whether Lu was lying. For example, Lu first denied she had made that phone call, but later argued that someone faked her name to make that call, he said.

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