Thu, Apr 11, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Lu and `Journalist' both claim victory

RUMORS AND LIBEL A district court ruled in the lawsuit filed by the vice president against the magazine that `The Journalist' should admit it lied about receiving Lu's call

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Vice President Annette Lu speaks at a press conference on her lawsuit against The Journalist magazine after the Taipei District Court ruled on the case yesterday.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

The Taipei District Court (台北地方法院) yesterday ordered The Journalist (新新聞) editor in chief Yang Chao (楊照) to "clarify and admit" that Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) did not call him to spread a rumor that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was having an affair with his then-interpreter Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴).

However, Judge Lai Yung-hua's (賴泱樺) ruling yesterday in the long-running lawsuit filed by Lu against the magazine left both sides declaring victory, since he found all of the defendants not guilty of libel.

The dispute between The Journalist and Lu erupted in November 2000 when the magazine published a story accusing Lu of spreading a rumor that Chen was having an affair with one of his female aides. The magazine said Lu spread the rumor in order to unseat Chen.

Lu filed a civil suit on Dec. 21, 2000, demanding a formal apology from the magazine, saying the story had injured her reputation.

In addition to Yang, the lawsuit named as defendants The Journalist president Wang Chien-chuang (王健壯), executive president Jan Hung-chi (詹宏志), publisher Wang Hsing-ching (王杏慶) and reporters Yang Shu-mei (楊舒媚), Wu Yan-ling (吳燕玲) and Tao Ling-yu (陶令瑜).

In his verdict, Judge Lai acknowledged that Yang had lied about Lu calling him and telling him about the alleged affair and that he had also lied about having witnesses to back up the magazine's story.

However, Lai said the magazine was protected by the press freedom guaranteed by the Council of Grand Justices' constitutional Interpretation Number 509, which allows the press to propose proper questions about any suspicious fact or person. Therefore, he ruled that Yang was not guilty of libel.

Yang testified that Lu had called him on Nov. 13, 2000 and said that the president was having an affair. Yang said he had then told reporters Yang Shu-mei, Wu and Tao about the phone call and directed them to write about it.

In pre-trial hearings, Yang told the judge that Chen Shih-ning (陳詩寧), a public television reporter, and Tseng Chao-ming (曾昭明), a former secretary in the Presidential Office, could confirm the magazine's story. However, Tseng testified that he had heard about a rumored affair, but not from Lu. Chen testified that he never said that he could confirm anything.

As for the other defendants, Lai ruled Wang Chien-chuang was not guilty because he was only in charge of administrative duties and had nothing to do with the magazine's stories. Jan was found not guilty because his title was simply an honorary one and he was not really working for the magazine. Wang Hsing-ching was found not guilty because his duties did not include editing the stories about Lu.

The three reporters were found innocent because the judge ruled they were only following orders in writing stories assigned to them by Yang.

However, Lai ruled that the story about Lu had damaged her reputation -- therefore, according to Article 188-1 of the Civil Code, Yang must "clarify and admit" his mistake. Lai ordered Yang to publish a clarification on the front pages of Taiwan's major newspapers as well as broadcast it on the radio and TV for three days.

"The case was about human dignity and press freedom," said Lai. "The court understood the defendants' jobs as media workers but we also considered Lu's reputation's as being damaged."

Lu claimed victory yesterday.

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