Sat, Dec 14, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Magazine ordered to correct Lu story

MEDIA ETHICS While the court upheld a verdict that the vice president had not been libeled, the offending publication must publish a correction in major papers

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Journalist magazine editor-in-chief Yang Chao, right, and publisher Wang Chien-chuang yesterday hold a press conference, saying that the weekly will not apologize to Vice President Annette Lu.

PHOTO: FANG PIN-CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

The Taiwan High Court yesterday upheld the verdict of a lower court that The Journalist magazine did not libel Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) when it reported that she had called its editor-in-chief to spread a rumor of an affair involving President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

But it ordered the publication and five of its personnel to bear the costs of publishing a correction of a report withdrawing the allegation.

In addition to the magazine itself and the editor-in-chief, Yang Chao (楊照), the magazine's president Wang Chien-chuang (王健壯), and reporters Yang Shu-mei (楊舒媚), Wu Yan-ling (吳燕玲) and Tao Ling-yu (陶令瑜) were ordered to share the costs.

Judge Chang Tsung-chuan (張宗權) ruled that the defendants must buy half the front pages of four major Chinese-language newspapers, China Times, United Daily News, Liberty Times and the Commercial Times, to publish a clarification for one day, which will cost about NT$3.86 million.

"All of the defendants attended the editorial meeting at which it was decided to publish the story so we believe that they should share the responsibility," said Tsai Kuo-tsai (蔡國在), spokesman for the Taiwan High Court. "That's why we ruled that they should share the cost of the publication."

The first verdict dismissed Lu's libel charges on the grounds that newspapers were entitled to pose legitimate questions about the conduct of public officials.

But it, nevertheless, ruled that Yang must personally bear the cost of the publication of corrections on the front pages of Taiwan's 32 newspapers and broadcast on major radio and TV stations for three consecutive days, which would cost about NT$180 million.

"We believed that Lu's wish to clear her name can be done by publishing the clarification on four major Chinese-language newspapers instead of all local newspapers," Tsai said. "Plus, according to our estimate, it would take Yang about 2.5 hours to read through the 15,000-word clarification, written by Lu's lawyer, on radio or TV which could be difficult for radio and TV production. So, we dropped the radio and TV part."

Yesterday's verdict was on Yang's appeal against the costs imposed on him as a result of the civil case filed by Lu on Dec. 21, 2000, saying a story published by the magazine had injured her reputation. In addition, Lu's charges of criminal libel against the magazine and seven of its employees were dropped during the first trial.

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, Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴). The magazine said Lu spread the rumor in order to unseat Chen.

During the first trial, the magazine's executive president, Jan Hung-chi (詹宏志), and publisher, Wang Hsing-ching (王杏慶), were also sued by Lu. Their innocence was upheld in the second verdict.

In response to the second verdict, the vice president said that she had been obliged to file the suit.

"I just needed to let the public know the truth. We also hoped that the media could learn a lesson from the case," Lu said. "This is belated justice."

Wang Chien-chuang held a press conference immediately and said that they would appeal again.

"We are very disappointed and will definitely appeal," he said.

According to the first verdict by Taipei Judge Lai Yung-hua (賴泱樺), Lu's libel charges against the seven defendants and the magazine were dismissed because of press freedoms guaranteed by the Council of Grand Justices' constitutional Interpretation Number 509, which allows the press to pose proper questions about suspicious facts or persons.

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