Taiwan reporter sacked over Philippine hoax

TAIPEI (AFP) - A reporter in Taiwan has been sacked for fabricating a story about a diner refusing to serve Filipinos amid a diplomatic row over the recent killing of a Taiwanese fisherman, his company said on Wednesday.

The reporter, identified only by his family name Cheng, wrote on his Facebook page that he "witnessed" a diner owner refusing to sell boxed lunches to two men after discovering that they were Filipinos, according to Lih Pao newspaper.

When Mr Cheng's superior asked to meet the owner to verify the story, the reporter sent an impostor and later admitted that he never saw the incident take place, the newspaper said.

"We apologise to the public. Even though we tried to verify the story, we regrettably could not avoid such a deliberate deceit happening," it said.

Anti-Manila sentiment has mounted in Taiwan after a 65-year-old fisherman was shot dead earlier this month by Philippine coastguards who claimed his vessel had intruded into their territorial waters.

Taiwan has rejected Manila's claims that the shooting took place in Philippine waters and that the killing was "unintended". President Ma Ying-jeou has described the incident as "cold-blooded murder".

A Taiwanese woman who similarly caused a stir on Facebook earlier this week with a story of a diner refusing to serve Filipinos has also admitted to making it up.

The woman, identified by her family name Tung, claimed that she bought food for a Filipino worker in a restaurant in Taipei on May 15 because the owner refused to serve the Filipino. She was caught out after giving conflicting details of the alleged incident when questioned by those who responded to her post.

"I know I made a very big mistake. I don't know how to face society now," she told reporters.

President Ma has called for calm and promised to protect the 87,000 Philippine nationals living and working on the island after a Filipino worker was attacked last week.

Taiwan has announced a series of economic sanctions against the Philippines, demanding that Manila offer a formal government apology and compensation for the fisherman's family, and launch a joint investigation into the incident.

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