The recent case of a railway worker accused of murdering his Vietnamese wife by staging a train derailment has highlighted the serious problem of the incestuous relationship between the police, prosecutors, and the media in Taiwan.

The investigation was turned over to the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office, effective yesterday, said Lee Jing-yong, deputy justice minister. The decision was later confirmed by Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) during a legislative interpellation session.

Justice Minister Morley Shih also said the Pingtung office will be penalized for their misconduct. The details of the disciplinary action will be decided in the next two days, he noted.

The prosecutors on Thursday portrayed Lee as debt ridden, saying he had lost over NT$30 million on the stock market. They implied that Lee may have planned last Saturday’s derailment to kill his Vietnamese wife Chen Shi Hong-sheng in order to collect NT$20 million in insurance.

However, the debt allegation was completely overturned when the securities company said not only did Lee not lose money, but he had made over NT$100,000 from his investments.

To set the record straight, Chung Ji-mei, a vice president of Grand Cathay Securities Corporation said the company indeed provided prosecutors with Lee’s transaction history and did not understand how the law enforcement came up with such a figure.

Chuang Rong-song, spokesperson for the Pingtung prosecution office, admitted to the miscalculation and expressed regrets to Lee’s family.

Around 6 o’clock Thursday morning, Lee’s body was found hanging from a tree near his house. In his three suicide notes, Lee said that he was innocent of the suspicions leveled at him and accused the prosecution and media of driving him to his grave.

It seems almost pointless to call for reform of Taiwan’s hopeless media, and its hopeless attitude toward it. One reason I hate watching TV news — on in every restaurant in the nation — is that I don’t want to see people in emergency rooms, people suffering and crying horribly, people bleeding, people out of their wits — it’s like a pornography of pain. No one should have to suffer the intrusion of the media into their private lives like that. How many more lives will these locusts destroy?

Not only does such behavior degrade all it touches, it also threatens the whole idea of democracy on Taiwan in two important ways. First, the media’s role is to function as a watchdog, to hold the government accountable. Obviously it cannot fufill that role if it does not take such a role seriously. Second, by behaving like animals, the media invites attempts to control it and rein it in. Both are problematic for the development of a robust democracy on Taiwan.