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|In a landmark victory for democracy and press freedom, a Taiwan court on April 22 dismissed criminal libel charges against American journalist Ying Chan and Taiwan-based journalist Hsieh Chung-liang. An amicus brief signed by ten prominent United States media companies and the Committee to Protect Journalists on the defendants' behalf was a strong factor in the judge's decision, observers said.
The suit stemmed from an Oct. 25, 1996, article by Ms. Chan, a reporter for the New York Daily News, and Mr. Hsieh in the Hong Kong news weekly Yazhou Zhoukan (Asia Week). The article reported that Liu Tai-ying, business manager for Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang party, had offered $15 million to President Clinton's re-election campaign in a meeting with former White House aide Mark E. Middleton, according to a source who had been present. As the article reported, Liu denied that he had made the offer. The reporters' source for the story, Chen Chao-ping, first publicly confirmed its accuracy, but after being named as a defendant in the criminal libel case, settled the charges against him by stating that he had misinterpreted the meeting.
The judge, Li Wei-shin of the 16th Criminal Tribunal in Taipei, essentially accepted the arguments made by the international media as to why criminal sanctions would be so inappropriate in this case, said Robert Balin, Ms. Chan's U.S. attorney. Balin, who had gone with Ying Chan to Taiwan for an April 15 hearing, said the judge reportedly also indicated in rendering his decision that the Yazhou Zhoukan article was a matter of public interest that should be subject to public comment, that the writers based their work on their investigation and believed the truth of the story, and that there had been no malicious intent to damage Liu's reputation. A civil suit filed by Liu asking for $15 million in damages was also dismissed. (Full Story)