Chinese bloggers & journalists force Foxconn climbdown! – Rebecca MacKinnon

From RConversation blog:

20060830_02.jpg Congratulations to China’s bloggers and journalists! While certain influential journalists in the U.S. can’t seem to shake their tiresome bloggers vs. journalists arguments Chinese bloggers and journalists are working together to defeat enemies of free speech. Way to go!!

A bit of background for those who need it: The Taiwanese-run iPod subcontractor Foxconn sued two Chinese journalists for libel after they reported about abusive conditions at Foxconn’s iPod factory in Shenzhen (after the British Mail on Sunday had already broken the story, which then led to an Apple investigation of the factory, the results of which cleared of some of the abuses reported in the original story, though it did find some workers working unacceptably long hours). got Shenzhen court to freeze all the personal assets of a journalist and editor from the Shanghai-based First Financial Daily and was seeking over $3 million in damages from them as individuals – not against their newspaper. Had the case succeeded, Chinese journalists widely believed that would have been the end of any attempts at muckraking journalism in China because reporters would fear personal destitution. [Full Text]

See also: Lawsuit targeting journalists criticised by Chow Chung-Yan on the South China Morning Post:

While companies occasionally sue publications for reports they consider unfair, Foxconn’s lawsuit drew unusually strong criticism from both the media and the public, with many accusing it of trying to gag the press with bullying tactics.

It is seeking the largest sum in damages in a Chinese defamation case, which is also the first such lawsuit against individual journalists in recent years.

“This lawsuit smacks of bullying … Why does Foxconn pick two individual reporters to sue but not the whole newspaper? It is because they are easier targets and have no financial means to defend themselves. Why does it make such an extreme request for freezing the reporters’ assets before the trial starts? Isn’t this a way to intimidate people?” read the editorial of the influential Southern Metropolis Daily newspaper.

The plight of journalists Weng Bao and Wang You has won them nationwide sympathy, with many people sending text messages to show their support.

To voice their grievances, the two journalists started a blog on a mainland website that received more than 69,600 hits on its first day.

In the blog, Weng said he was under tremendous pressure. “It is the most difficult time for me since I began to work in the media 10 years ago.”

A survey by leading mainland internet portal also showed the majority of the public supported their case. More than 86 per cent of 16,156 respondents believed the journalists did not damage the company’s reputation.

Also see ESWN’s The PR War of FoxConn verus Media and Wang You’s blog:

At the Beijing airport, I called my mother. As soon as the call was connected, I immediately heard my mother crying. I will remember that pitiful terror for the rest of my life. I know that the hardest thing for me to accept has occurred. My father and mother only learned about what happened yesterday because the news is everywhere by now. First, they read the local Nanguo Metropolis Daily. Then a relative showed them how to read the news on the Internet (this was their first ever experience with the Internet) and told them what was written there. Over the telephone, my mother kept repeating through her sobs: “Son, we are good people. Good people have good ends. You must be strong.”

When I turned the mobile phone off, my eyes were blurry with tears.

And What makes news? by Telegraph’s Richard Spender in response to Chinese criticism over foreign media silence:

However, the important thing is just to look closely at the story and see what it offers to a western reader. The basic points are that a company is suing journalists over a bit of reporting it claims is false or unfair.

That’s the “intimidation” being meted out. But, while that’s a good and important story for China, where Foxconn and the paper are both well-known, it’s not so much so for other countries, because libel actions by firms against newspapers happen everywhere. This is just another one.

August 30, 2006 5:19 PM
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