The Taiwan High Court yesterday upheld the verdict of a lower court that The Journalist magazine did not libel Vice President Annette Lu (
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 (
PHOTO: FANG PIN-CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES
Judge Chang Tsung-chuan (
"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 (
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 (
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 (
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 at the Taipei District Court (
However, Tseng testified that he had heard about a rumored affair, but not from Lu. Chen testified that he had never claimed to be able to 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 not guilty because the judge ruled they were only following orders in writing stories assigned to them by Yang.
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