The Seoul Central District Prosecutors` Office investigating the distortion of the safety of U.S. beef by MBC’s in-depth investigative program “PD Notebook” has concluded in its interim probe results that the program either stretched the facts or intentionally edited certain contents.
At a briefing Tuesday, prosecutors said, “Reviews on U.S. media reports and related data, and investigations of translators who participated in the program and experts in relevant fields showed that the MBC program’s report on mad cow disease was mostly exaggerated and edited in a way that distorted facts.”
The prosecution has released original material that was used by the program. The material collected by prosecutors includes domestic and overseas videos and references. Based on its conclusion, prosecutors sent a 140-page questionnaire to MBC.
Investigators pointed out that PD Notebook aired video footage of the U.S. Humane Society showing a downer cow being abused as if those downer cows were infected with mad cow disease, though the footage is not directly related to the brain-wasting disease.
The program also showed Aretha Vinson’s funeral and an interview with her mother to make the audience believe that the downer cow contracted mad cow disease and Vinson died due to ingesting meat from the cow, according to the prosecution.
Prosecutor Im Soo-bin said, “Though there are 59 factors for the symptoms of downer cattle and mad cow disease is one of them, the program intentionally modified some part of the translation to give a false impression that the downer cow was infected with mad cow disease.”
On the show host’s remarks that referred to a downer cow as “the aforementioned cow that contracted mad cow disease,” the prosecution said though the host later acknowledged that he made a slip of the tongue, he could have intentionally made the remarks. Thus prosecutors have asked MBC to turn in the whole transcript of the program.
On the cause of Aretha Vinson’s death, in addition to vCJD, the human form of mad cow disease, the U.S. media presented various possibilities including Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), a side-effect from gastrectomy, renal disorder, and oxygen deficiency in the brain. But PD Notebook purposefully ruled out other possibilities in order to focus on the brain-wasting disease, prosecutors said.
Investigators also pointed out the following as lacking evidence and exaggerating risks: “The Korean people, who have a large number of MM genotypes, are highly susceptible to mad cow disease”; “mad cow disease spreads even through fried noodle soup”; and “those who consume 0.1 grams of specified risky materials (SRMs) contract mad cow disease and die from it.”
However, the prosecution said that after reviewing the program’s original material, it will confirm whether the program distorted the facts and is responsible for libel damages.
One official of the prosecution said, “The indictment of the program’s staff on charges of damaging the reputation of the Agricultural Ministry’s negotiation team depends on the review of the original material.”