Thu, Jul 03, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Use facts, lawyers ask TV crew

WRONG MESSAGE A popular soap opera was criticized because some of its scenes inaccurately portrayed Taiwanese legal procedure, instead of educating the public

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Joseph Lin, executive member of the Judicial Reform Foundation, points to footage from the popular TV series ``Taiwan Thunder Fire'' during a press conference yesterday. Raising objections to some of the inaccurate legal concepts presented in the show, Lin called for TV stations to consider their social responsibilities in addition to producing popular TV shows.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Lawyers yesterday urged a TV soap opera's creative crew to be more careful and accurate when writing screenplays about legal procedures.

At a press conference held by the Judicial Reform Foundation (民間司法改革基金會) and the Media Watch (台灣媒體教育基金會) yesterday morning, Taiwan Thunder Fire (台灣霹靂火), the most popular TV soap opera in the country, was criticized because the show has delivered wrong messages to its audience about the judicial system.

"For instance, in the drama, the judge, the prosecutor, the defense counsel and the defendants met each other outside the courtroom. They even had a private meeting at the defense counsel's apartment. This will never happen in real life," said lawyer Joseph Lin (林永頌), an executive member of the association.

"In addition to entertaining the public, the media also has the responsibility to educate people with accurate messages," he said.

Lin screened selected footage of the show which was broadcast on June 19, June 23 and June 30, pointing out errors in the drama and correcting each one during the hour-long press conference.

In the drama, the police detained a suspect for more than 24 hours because "it was a weekend and the court was closed," Lin said.

In fact, prosecutors and police officers can not detain anybody for more than 24 hours and they have to file a detention request at court if they want to prolong detention of a suspect.

There are always judges on duty to hear these requests, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Lin said.

The judge in the drama filed a request to her superior to relieve the prosecutor. Actually, it is impossible for judges to interfere with the prosecution. In addition, only prosecutors' superiors, such as prosecutor-generals, have the right to assign or relieve a prosecutor.

In the show on June 23, the same judge interrogated the suspect in a police station's conference room. However, an interrogation or a hearing can only be held in a courtroom.

After the interrogation, the judge asked the prosecutor to continue her investigation into the case.

But in reality, a judge will never order a prosecutor to do his or her job.

Lin, however, also praised the show because it is the first TV drama to introduce the judicial system and legal procedure to the public, even though some of its messages are not accurate.

"I must say, not all the messages are wrong," Lin said. "For instance, in the show on June 30, the prosecutor mentioned Article 164 of the Criminal Code and what she said was totally correct."

"In addition, on June 19, the judge said that a defendant is not allowed to request a meeting with another detained defendant in the same case. That is also accurate," Lin said.

The 90-minute show, which is aired from Monday through Friday, started on June 19 last year and was scheduled to end on July 22.

It is currently the most popular TV soap opera in the country and the majority of its audience is located in southern Taiwan.

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