Footage aired in ‘PD Diary’ retrial

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Footage aired in ‘PD Diary’ retrial

In the second trial over an episode aired by MBC current affairs program “PD Diary” on mad cow disease and the safety of U.S. beef imports, original footage of the April 2008 episode were shown in court yesterday.

Producers and crew members of the program were put on trial in January on charges of defaming Korean government officials who had removed a ban on U.S. beef.

The first trial resulted in an acquittal for the news team. During that trial, the news staff refused to allow footage of the show from being played in court.

But the footage was shown yesterday in the appeals trial, though the press and visitors were told to leave the courtroom when producers played 30 minutes of the four-hour-long original footage.

The judge accepted the producers’ request for a closed session “to protect sources and freedom of the press.”

Although the court’s decision was protested, the court said it accepted the producers’ request because “after the producers’ original objection to showing the footage, they are more willing to cooperate with court.”

The 30-minute clip of the footage featured an interview with the mother of a deceased American woman, Aretha Vinson, and Vinson’s doctor.

The PD Diary episode stated that it was highly likely that Vinson died of a human form of mad cow disease after eating U.S. beef.

Prosecutors said, though, that their research found that neither Vinson’s family nor her doctor confirmed she died from such a disease, and they accused the producers of intentionally misinterpreting Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease - a rare, degenerative, invariably fatal brain disorder blamed on tainted beef.

Shortly after President Lee Myung-bak took office in 2008, Korea agreed to reopen its market to U.S. beef, lifting a ban imposed since the first U.S. case of mad cow disease was reported in 2003.

After MBC aired episodes of PD Diary, which addressed the possible risks of U.S. beef, the Lee administration faced massive public protests. The streets of downtown Seoul were marred by violent clashes between police and demonstrators throughout the summer. Lee eventually issued two apologies.

By Kim Mi-ju, Koo Hui-lyung []
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