Go to contents

`PD Notebook` Staff Arrested, Homes Raided in Probe

Posted March. 27, 2009 08:47,   


Prosecutors yesterday raided the homes of the staff of the MBC TV investigative program “PD Notebook” on suspicion of exaggerating fears over American beef and the risk of mad cow disease.

The Seoul District Prosecutors’ Office sent investigators to the homes of four producers and two writers and seized computers, videotapes and papers related to the controversial program.

Producer Lee Chun-geun was arrested Wednesday and questioned on whether he intentionally edited or modified the scripts or video footage to exaggerate fears over mad cow disease.

▽ Refusal for interrogation

Prosecutors took several people into custody and seized materials shortly after members of the program’s staff snubbed a summons, concluding they were unwilling to help the investigation.

The former chief producer of the program Jo Neung-hee and fellow producers Lee and Kim Bo-seul defied a summons Tuesday and Wednesday. Four of the six targeted for investigation were summoned three times last year, but never showed up for questioning.

Prosecutors said a further and thorough investigation is inevitable since government officials, including former Agriculture Minister Chung Woon-chun, filed a defamation complaint against the program’s staff.

Investigators said they need to talk to the program’s producers and staff to find out if they had any reason to believe they reported the truth and if they knew they reported the wrong information, to determine whether they defamed government officials.

Prosecutors are considering measures to detain other staff at the program participating in a sit-in demonstration inside the MBC building.

▽Potential raid on MBC

In July last year, prosecutors suggested the possibility that PD Notebook staff intentionally mistranslated parts of a video clip broadcast in English to imply that Downer cows -- ones that can`t walk on their own -- were infected with mad cow disease.

The program’s staff is also suspected of intentionally misinterpreting the interview of a mother whose daughter died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare and deadly nerve disease. A prosecutor said the program might have led viewers to the erroneous conclusion that the girl died of vCJD, the human form of mad cow disease.

Prosecutors have requested that the producers and staff provide the original material.

In an interview with MBC radio yesterday, producer Kim said, “The original materials mostly consist of interviews. If prosecutors want to say we distorted the material, it’d be better for them to ask the interviewees what their intention was.”

A prosecutor shot back by saying, “We’ll judge whether we need the original materials or not. If they were not at fault, they have no reason not to provide the materials.”

Producers of MBC’s documentary department have also refused to work on any program to protest the arrest of producer Lee. Since higher-ranking producers will replace demonstrators, the programs “No Complaints” and “MBC Special” will air as scheduled.

dawn@donga.com jjj@donga.com