MBC can learn from mistakesProsecutors yesterday indicted - without physical detention - five staff members associated with the MBC program “PD Diary” on charges of defamation related to an episode on the safety of U.S. beef that aired in April of last year.
Prosecutors claim the broadcaster intentionally distorted or embellished 30 key scenes and defamed a former cabinet minister and other plaintiffs.
On Wednesday, following a complaint from the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the Seoul High Court ordered MBC to air corrections related to the episode.
The court also ruled as “false information” the program’s claim that the Korean government would be helpless to stop the spread of the human form of mad cow disease here if it broke out in the United States.
In a previous ruling, the court had said that MBC didn’t need to run corrections on that particular bit of reporting.
It’s fortunate that the truth is emerging on PD Diary’s reporting on mad cow disease, which has been the subject of numerous investigations and court rulings. But judging from the relatively low level of punishment meted out so far, we also feel the limits of the current law.
After the program in question aired 14 months ago, the nation sunk into a deep morass. It showed that a democratic system can be shaken at its roots when a terrestrial broadcaster abuses its power for its own interests.
Prosecutors have just begun to uncover the entire truth about these reports.
The original tape of the program in question, which is needed to determine what really happened and why, has not been made available because of MBC’s opposition.
The prosecution shouldn’t think that placing criminal liability on a few people is enough. They have to do their utmost to reveal the truth, and therefore honor the public’s right to know what happened, during trials.
For its part, MBC must now accept the court’s judgments, apologize to the people and lead efforts to uncover the truth.
At the British broadcaster BBC, top executives resigned when the network’s 2003 reporting on the war in Iraq turned out to be false. It wasn’t because they were afraid of lawsuits but because they felt a heavy responsibility as employees of a public broadcaster.
MBC also should assume responsibility for its own for incorrect reporting and strive for fair and balanced journalism in the future.
We expect MBC to take this opportunity to transform into a true public broadcaster. For we, along with the public, will keep a close eye on the network’s future endeavors.
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