The former publisher of a magazine that printed a semi-nude picture of a kidnapped actress four years ago was fined HK$20,000 in Eastern Court yesterday for publishing an obscene article.
However, three former executives of Eastweek magazine, who were allegedly involved in the decision to publish the semi-nude photo of actress Carina Lau Ka-ling, forcibly taken during her abduction, on the front page in October 2002, have pleaded not guilty to the same charge.
Then chief editor Mong Hon-ming, editorial specialist Wong Kim-man and executive editor-in-chief Lee Sin-sau, who left their jobs when the magazine was forced to close three days after printing the photo, will jointly stand trial on December 8 for publishing an obscene article. The trial has been scheduled for five days.
Barrister Jon Wong, who is representing Mong and Eastweek's former publisher New Media Group, told the magistrate, Bina Chainrai, that it was never the publisher's intention to harm anyone.
'Although there were internal guidelines that pictures suspected to be obscene should be sent to the Obscene Articles Tribunal for classification, that normally takes three to five days and they can't afford to do that every time. Sometimes editorial misjudgment is inevitable among publishers.'
Publication of the photo sparked a public outcry, including a protest by movie stars and other celebrities against Eastweek and a number of other magazines that reprinted the image.
Mr Wong pointed out that Eastweek was shut down and apologies were published in major newspapers three days after printing the picture - which was classified as obscene by the tribunal two days later.
Eastweek magazine appealed against the ruling, saying the photo was published to warn the world of such crime. The appeal was dismissed.
The kidnapping was said to be a punishment for Lau's refusal to take part in a film funded by triads.