22 April 2009

Financial blogger acquitted of spreading false news

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A South Korean blogger has been acquitted of spreading false news on the Internet, reports Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Park Dae-sung, writing as "Minerva", gained notoriety last year as a financial blogger who ominously predicted South Korea's market decline and denounced the government's handling of the economy.

Some of his predictions, including the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers, proved correct, helping spark interest in his online postings.

Park was detained in January under a seldom-used electronic communications law that charges him with undermining the nation's credibility by posting false information online. Prosecutors had sought an 18-month prison sentence.

"This acquittal is a sign that the South Korean courts are capable of issuing independent verdicts based on the facts, without yielding to political pressure," said RSF, which had a representative monitoring the trial. "We hope this verdict will encourage the authorities not to prosecute or intimidate Internet users anymore."

Judge Yoo Young-hyun said in his ruling that he did not think Park "intended to damage the public interest" or was "aware the information was misleading when he wrote the postings." Park was due to be freed after spending more than three months in prison.

Despite being unemployed and a self-taught economist, by the time he was arrested Park was a cyber-sensation. According to the "Washington Post", his blog had garnered more than 40 million page views and he was celebrated in the South Korean news media as the "online oracle" and the "Internet president of the economy."

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