updated 12:00 am EDT, Thu August 31, 2006
Foxconn backs down
Apple's iPod manufacturing partner Foxconn has drastically reduced the amount of damages it is seeking in a lawsuit against two journalists in connection with an allegedly false report on the working conditions in Foxconn's iPod factories. Following a report that said Apple was going to help mediate the dispute between the parties, Foxconn has slashed a libel claim from 30 million yuan ($3.77 million) to just 1 yuan, according to the Xinhua news agency. Foxconn, which manufactures iPods for Apple, said it would also apply to unfreeze the journalists' assets, which include their homes, bank accounts and a car, according to the report. The Chinese manufacturing giant, which is also reportedly vying for additional laptop production business from Apple, was seeking damages caused by a tarnished reputation from false charges of labor abuse. "This is a victory for Chinese media," Weng Bao, one of the two reporters working for the Shanghai-based China Business News, was quoted as saying.
According to the report, it was not immediately clear why the damages claim had been cut; however, China Business News, the publication which published the report, had urged Foxconn to drop the case, saying it "strongly condemned" the lawsuit and would do whatever it could to support its journalists.
The Foxconn lawsuit triggered an ongoing public debate on protections for journalists, prompting atleast one industry watch group to write an open letter to Apple's CEO Steve Jobs. The journalists, whose report followed a similar one by a UK-based publication five days earlier, also setup their own blogs to give their side of the story. Nearly 2 million people had visited the blogs by the middle of Wednesday--mostly voicing support for the journalists--Xinhua reported.
While Foxconn admitted to breaking some local labor laws, Apple reported found no truth to most of allegations; however, it did find some violations related its Code of Conduct for suppliers and said that it was working with Foxconn to resolve those issues; however, Apple's report was criticized by some industry officials who believe that it should have hired a third-party to conduct the investigation.
Apple also said that it would continue to monitor the iPod factory conditions and also examine the conditions in its other manfacturing and production facilities.