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CNN ADMITS ERROR IN BROADCASTING NORIEGA TAPES

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On the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Panama, CNN is admitting on television that it disobeyed a judge's order in broadcasting Manuel Noriega's taped jailhouse phone conversations.

"CNN realizes it was in error in defying the order of the court and publishing the Noriega tape while appealing the court's order," the network said in a statement approved by U.S. District Judge William Hoeveler.The judge gave CNN a choice Monday: Pay a substantial fine of any amount he chooses plus the $85,000 it cost to prosecute the case against the network, or broadcast the admission of error and pay only the $85,000.

In what he called "a very difficult" decision, CNN President Tom Johnson agreed to broadcast the statement, which was first aired Monday night. It also was to run on CNN Headline News through Tuesday afternoon.

"I do regret that we came into conflict with the court and particularly that we did so in such a public way," Johnson said before Hoeveler's offer.

Tuesday marks five years since the United States invaded Panama. Noriega was brought to Miami and went on trial for drug and racketeering charges. The deposed dictator was convicted and is serving a 40-year sentence.

Hoeveler, who presided over Noriega's trial, had convicted CNN of contempt in November for broadcasting leaked tapes of telephone conversations between Noriega and his lawyers in 1990.

CNN aired segments of the tapes 11 times over two days in November 1990 even after Hoeveler learned of the plans and warned that any use of the tapes would violate his order.

The network argued that it was legally entitled to broadcast the tapes, and that it had a journalistic responsibility to do so.