MBC PDs file suit against prosecution
By Yi Whan-woo
The producers of an investigative program on MBC have filed a compensation lawsuit against the prosecution and a major conservative daily newspaper for allegedly spreading false information concerning their reports on mad cow disease in the United States.
Cho Neung-hee, the director of “PD Notebook,” and four others filed the suit, demanding 250 million won ($216,000) in compensation Sunday. The lawsuit comes after the producers were cleared of seven charges over the validity of content from an episode aired in April, 2008.
The five producers claimed investigators at the Seoul Central District Court Prosecutors’ Office provided false information to a reporter at the JoonAng Ilbo, the accused newspaper.
“The prosecution spoke to the reporter as if we fabricated facts on mad cow disease,” Cho said. “The JoonAng Ilbo should also take responsibility as its reporter wrote an article as if the details provided by the prosecution were uncontestable, and such a reckless article seriously tarnished our reputation as journalists.”
The disputed episode was about cases of people dying overseas from mad cow disease.
Prosecutors said the program distorted an interview with Robin Vinson, an American whose daughter died of a rare brain disease. The prosecution said “PD Notebook” intentionally reported that Vinson’s daughter died from variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), a human form of mad cow disease.
The program’s caption read vCJD, even though the term her mother used was CJD, not vCJD, according to the prosecution.
The episode incited fear in the public that led to mass protests against the government to ban imports of U.S. beef.
The prosecution indicted Cho and his colleagues for exaggerating the risk of mad cow disease from U.S. beef. The five producers underwent a total of seven lawsuits as civic groups also made similar allegations.
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the MBC producers in four of the seven cases brought against them, while the three others were dropped.
“The prosecution knew that our translation was correct, as the investigators had obtained medical records on Vinson’s daughter.” Cho said. “It’s such a pity that the JoonAng Ilbo reporter failed to search for the records on his own, which is one of his main duties as a reporter.”