President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) lost a libel suit yesterday that he filed against UFO Radio chairman Jaw Shaw-kong (趙少康) over his allegation that Chen offered a huge sum of money to the former Panamanian president Mireya Moscoso as a birthday gift.
However, the Taipei District Court ruled in favor of Chen in his suit against two People First Party (PFP) legislators, Liu Wen-hsiung (劉文雄) and Tsai Chung-han (蔡中涵), in the same case. The ruling ordered the two to publish half-page apologies in the nation's major Chinese-language newspapers.
In response, the Presidential Office yesterday evening said that the president respects the ruling and was glad that it had cleared up the matter, as it had affected the nation's relations with Panama.
Liu said yesterday that he would appeal the ruling while Tsai offered no comment.
The president brought the suit against Jaw, Liu and Tsai in October 2004 after they had claimed that the president had offered US$1 million to former Panamanian president Mireya Moscoso as a birthday gift.
"The issues relating to Taiwan's financing of its diplomatic allies concerns the national interest and therefore is open to discussion," said the ruling.
"Jaw used information from a Web site and newspaper reports as sources for his comments, therefore he did not make the story up," the ruling added.
The ruling said that Jaw's remarks concerning the diplomacy of Taiwan should be protected under freedom of speech.
After the ruling was given yesterday, Chen's lawyer Wellington Ku (顧立雄) told reporters that while freedom of speech is protected under the Constitution, the media should not be allowed to publish reckless and incorrect comments in name of the public interest.
Liu and Tsai, who held a news conference saying Chen had offered money to Moscoso as a gift and as a "settlement fee" for his "improper behavior," possibly referring to sexual harassment, had libeled Chen, the ruling said.
"Their allegations of a `settlement fee' were unrelated to the national interest and have defamed Chen. In addition, they were unable to offer any evidence supporting their claims," the ruling added.
Liu and Tsai said their allegation was based on comments made by Jaw during his radio show.
Instead of seeking financial compensation, Chen asked that the verdict be published and the men print apologies in Chinese-language newspapers for three days.