Five employees of South Korean broadcaster MBC were indicted last week on charges of defaming government officials. The charges stem from reports broadcast last summer about South Korea’s decision to lift it’s ban on U.S. beef. The government has was called the reports “biased” and “distorted,” and South Korea’s president has demanded that they publicly apologize for those biased reports about the dangers of consuming U.S. beef, and step down from their jobs.
MBC aired the reports last summer during a period of violent street protests over South Korea's decision to lift its ban on beef imports from the United States. The reports allegedly contained "seemingly deliberate mistranslations" that led viewers to believe they faced a major threat from bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). The South Korean president's office says it had learned that the MBC producers had "intentionally altered facts with ill intention."
South Korea had suspended U.S. beef imports following the December, 2003, discovery of BSE in an American cow. The South Korean government has been criticized for publicly supporting the prosecution's allegations before the court proceedings have been completed.
Protests over the resumption of American beef imports became violent last summer, and many battled riot police. One rally included about 15,000 people – some wielding steel pipes and hurling stones at police. The clash left several hundred protesters and riot police injured, and police said they arrested about 50 protesters on charges of assaulting police and illegally occupying streets.