Fri, Apr 30, 2004 - Page 1 News List

`Journalist' will not say sorry to Lu

FREEDOM OF THE PRESS In a defiant statement, the weekly magazine said that it would ask for a constitutional ruling on Annette Lu's libel case

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Supreme Court yesterday upheld the Taiwan High Court's verdict on Vice President Annette Lu's (呂秀蓮) libel lawsuit against The Journalist magazine. The weekly refused to offer an apology as per the court's orders and vowed to file for a second review of the case, as well as request a constitutional interpretation.

According to the ruling in December, the magazine needs to buy half-page ads on the front pages of four major Chinese-language newspapers to publish a clarification and apology.

The Supreme Court ruling came after the court heard an unprecedented debate on the case on Tuesday.

At issue was the grand justices' constitutional interpretation of Article 509, which states "the press is entitled to raise appropriate questions about any suspicious fact or person." However, this article applies only to criminal cases.

Citing the magazine's failure to verify the information, the Supreme Court overruled the magazine's appeal and upheld the High Court's decision.

"The key to the magazine's loss in the case is that it had failed to provide concrete evidence to prove its allegation," said Lee Jin-feng (李錦豐), spokesman of the Supreme Court.

Although the court agreed that the media is entitled to freedom of the press, Lee said that the media should do their utmost to verify information and report with as few mistakes as humanly possible.

Calling the verdict "disappointing," the magazine's president, Wang Chien-chuang (王健壯), said that it was the worst day in history for the nation's freedom of the press.

"The ruling is not only illegal, but also encroaches on the Constitution," Wang said. "In addition to requesting a second review of the case, we'll request a constitutional interpretation of Article 509 and 11 from the Council of Grand Justices."

Huang Chuang-shia (黃創夏), the magazine's deputy editor-in-chief, said that what concerned the magazine now was not the magazine's loss in the litigation but how far press freedom can go in this country.

"We're not fighting for ourselves, we're fighting for the nation's media industry as a whole," he said.

Lu's attorneys, on the other hand, lauded the Supreme Court's decision, saying the case had set a precedent for future similar cases.

"The moral of this case is that the media should pay the price for not doing their job right and failing to double-check the facts," said Yu Mei-nu (尤美女), one of Lu's lawyers.

The Vice President's Office yesterday also issued a press release, calling on the public to pressure the magazine to obey the court ruling and carry out its legal obligations as soon as possible.

The statement also outlined what it viewed as the three lessons of the case. The first dealt with the freedom of the press and the media's obligations. While the press enjoys freedom of speech, the statement said, it should fulfill its social obligations.

The second was about journalistic ethics, where the statement said that the duty of the media is to reports facts not to fabricate.

Finally, the statement said the media should respect the rule of law and safeguard social order and national interest.

Lu sued the magazine for publishing a story in November 2000 that claimed she had called its editor-in-chief to spread a rumor that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was having an affair with one of his female subordinates, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴).

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