Go to contents

Prosecutors Charge MBC News Program With Defamation

Posted May. 08, 2009 08:18,   


Prosecutors yesterday are known to have concluded that the MBC investigative program "PD Notebook" defamed public officials by reporting false information on U.S. beef.

The program aired an episode in April last year called “Is U.S. Beef Really Safe from Mad Cow Disease?” The conclusion came after prosecutors said they held a legal review following the summoning and investigation of six of the program’s producers.

The officials allegedly slandered included former Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Chung Woon-chun and former assistant minister Min Dong-seok

On the allegations, investigators said the episode can be construed as defamation of character on each public official. They said the program’s strong condemnation went above an acceptable level of criticism expected of journalists, and therefore, could be considered as defamation of character.

The program went as far as blasting the government a traitor like at the time of Japan’s annexation of Korea in 1910 for making too many concessions in the negotiations for U.S. beef imports.

Prosecutors also said the program cannot avoid legal responsibility for airing false information. PD Notebook said a young American woman died from variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), the human form of mad cow disease, when the real cause of her death was complications from gastrectomy.

The program also suggested that a downer cow was infected with mad cow disease. Criminal charges can be excused on false media reports if reporters had sufficient reason to believe their reports were based on truth at the time of their release.

The MBC program, however, cannot enjoy such an exemption as prosecutors found that what was aired contained many elements from the episode’s original script and subtitles attached in e-mail messages seized from the producers.

Prosecutors will decide on the number of producers to be indicted after further investigation. Given that the episode was aired more than a year ago, they plan to conclude the investigation by this month.