August 31, 2006 11:09 AM PDT

iPod manufacturer alters libel suit against journalists

Foxconn, the company employed by Apple Computer to manufacture the iPod, has reduced the damages it is seeking in a lawsuit against two Chinese journalists over claims about the treatment of workers at a factory run by one of its subsidiaries.

The two China Business News journalists at the center of the case, Wang You and Weng Bao, were initially hit with a libel suit claiming 30 million yuan (around $3.8 million) in damages and had their assets, including bank accounts, frozen by a Chinese court.

But the ensuing furor seems to have had an effect. Foxconn is now seeking desired damages in the token amount of 1 yuan. And the company has withdrawn a petition to freeze their assets.

The disputed articles alleged that workers in Foxconn's Longhua plant were forced into extra overtime, put up with cramped living conditions and had to stand for 12 hours or more at a time.

A recent examination of working conditions by Apple itself--prompted by reports in the London-based Mail on Sunday--found that staff were working longer than their 60 contractual hours and identified other breaches of its code of conduct.

In a statement earlier this week, Foxconn accused the pair of "careless journalism," adding: "Of this entire episode, what the company had asked for is simply the right to protect her reputation, to preserve the Chinese dignity. Any claim to us is more for its symbolic meaning than anything. We hereby solemnly announce that we will donate entire eventual compensation to non-profit organization for good cause."

The suit provoked a media outcry, culminating in an open letter from Reporters Without Borders encouraging Apple CEO Steve Jobs to defend the journalists. According to an Apple spokesman, the company is "working behind the scenes to resolve this issue."

Jo Best of Silicon.com reported from London.

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3 comments

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Just a second here...
If the reporters indeed get the facts grossly wrong (and an independent investigation launched by Apple seems to say this to an extent), then they should get slammed with a libel suit.

I don't care where the reporting was done and who done it - if a journalist commits libel, he or she should be made to face the consequences of that libel. It is the concept of libel law that keeps reporters from blatantly making things up and passing it off as "news".

Seriously - if someone 'reported' in a newspaper that the head of Reporters Without Borders was a raging paedophile and cannibal (making it look like it's very legit in the process), don't think for a second that that person wouldn't be on the phone with a lawyer nanoseconds after discovering the libel committed against him.

I'm not sticking up for any oppressive regime here, but just saying that maybe, just maybe, the journalists in question got their facts wrong, and if they did, then they can either prove their allegations or face the appropriate punishments.

/P
Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Rent this movie...
"Absence of Malice" starring Paul Newman and Sally Fields. It's
an old one. You'll get a good idea of how "journalists" think they
can say or publish anything they want without regard to the
truth. They think they can assassinate the character of anyone
they choose and nobody can touch them. Free speech and all
that don't you know.

I can't remember the exact year of the event but a government
official was smeared in the media and charged with some crime.
He was forced to resign and it took several years before he was
brought to trial. He was unanimously acquitted. A reporter asked
him what he planned to do now. He responded with the
question, "Where do I go to get my reputation back?"

The age old question comes to mind when I consider the power
of the news media. "Who watches the watchers?"
Posted by lkrupp (1608 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How did this turn out?
What was the outcome on this?

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