Media and Advertising
Posted by Joel Martinsen on Wednesday, August 30, 2006 at 1:07 PM
Providing a more substantial basis for the complaints of much of China's news media, Caijing magazine has a statement today from its in-house lawyer who identifies three problems with Foxconn's lawsuit:
- The reporters were not notified by the court about the freezing of their assets, a violation of the law;
- By freezing the assets of Weng Bao, the court also illegally froze the assets of his wife;
- The court issued a statement saying, "Upon review, this court finds that the plaintiff's application has cause and should be accepted," but has yet to notify the defendants what this cause is.
Lest anyone think that Chinese media is all of one voice about Foxconn's 30-million-yuan suit against two journalists, here are a few opposing viewpoints:
· In The Beijing News yesterday, Zhou Ze, an associate professor at the China Youth University for Political Sciences, cautioned journalists to reserve judgment on the case.
For reporters working in news divisions, the first thing to do after being sued is to investigate whether there is truly a problem with the report. If there truly is a problem, then you can voluntarily make a correction or an explanation, give the subject of the report an opportunity to respond, or strive to reach an understanding with the plaintiff. If you believe there is no problem, then it is enough to go to court and contest it. Of course, to avoid suits and to avoid being caught in a passive position, it is essential for news divisions and reporters to increase their knowledge of the law, and be especially prepared to prevent and reply to lawsuits. Even in response to the decision of the court, the news media and reporters should keep a level head, and understand that a verdict is only the opinion and decision of one or a few judges, and not necessarily the truth.
· Zhou Kecheng, known for his contrary opinions on controversial subjects ("The wealth gap is not necessarily a bad thing", "The public's anger at real-estate developers is unjustified"), wrote on his blog that Chinese journalists are being unreasonable:
1. Are the China Business News reporters and editorial board worthy of our sympathy? No. This is because at present we cannot determine whether their report was factual. If their report truly was misleading, then they not only should compensate Foxconn for its losses, but they should also apologize to the paper's subscribers and readers, since they have deceived the readers. On the other hand, if their report has no problems, then Foxconn should compensate them for freezing their assets. In sum, as readers, we must first look at whether the CBN report has problems. Media people should go investigate whether their report has problems. Not go running around calling for aiding CBN and criticizing Foxconn. CBN is not necessarily right, and Foxconn is not necessarily wrong.
2. Are Foxconn's actions in freezing the assets of the CBN journalists and editors deplorable? No. This is because Foxconn may have suffered losses due to a misleading article in CBN, so they have every reason to seek compensation rather than shrinking from it. In fact, I am aware that some media in China use their influence over readers to put pressure on manufacturers so that they can get advertising and sponsorship fees from manufacturers.
3. Even if the workers' salary is low, and working hours are long, should Foxconn be condemned for this? No. Suppose the workers willingly accepted the present wages, and willingly worked overtime - then there's really nothing to condemn Foxconn for, is there? If you believe that Foxconn's workers get paid too little, then why don't you pay workers a higher salary? If you believe that Foxconn's workers are overworkered, then why don't you treat your workers better? Are workers all idiots, and won't go work at a better place?
Of course, Apple can refuse to let Foxconn process their products, since Apple wants to build a brand and must consider its consumers' feelings. And Apple could condemn Foxconn, since Foxconn may have violated some contracts they have. However, in contract violation, it is enough to investigate according to the terms of the contract, so let Apple deal with it. In sum, as outsiders, we have no right to criticize Foxcon - as long as they aren't forcing workers to work.
4. After the Foxconn affair was broken, practically all public opinion and the media was in support of CBN. Is this fair? Why would the media believe that CBN is certainly in the right, and not maintain an objective middle ground? A friend told me, "Perhaps those in the media are in the middle of it, and are acting out of sympathy for their colleagues." How true this is.
5. It's understandable that with practically all of the media on the side of CBN, in addition to believing CBN too easily and not being incredulous enough, they believe that it is a bad thing that working hours are too long, and wages are too low; and it's not a problem even if these bad things are exaggerated a bit - or they may even think that they should be exaggerated, since in their eyes, workers are idiots and ugly-faced capitalists know only how to fleece workers, so there is a need for them to show off their "conscience" and "compassionate humanity".
· Netease's Business Channel has set up a special section called "Foxconn is not a sweatshop", which presents the following rationale:
- The investigation found that workers' biggest complaint was that they did not have enough overtime work;
- A large number of factories are worse than Foxconn;
- Cheap labor is what gives China its competitive advantage.
This was slammed by mindmeters contributor Wu Xiaobo, who writes "'employees' are most dissatisfied with a shortage of overtime' is logic similar to 'the greatest shortcoming of the leading comrades is that they don't care for their health enough'; it is an insult to the tens of thousands of Foxconn workers." In an earlier post, Wu pledged financial support for the journalists should they lose the suit.
· Finally, here are two (not particularly funny) cartoons on the issue: First, from the New Express on Tuesday:
The portly man with the dollar-sign on his tie says, "I want your two reporters to compensate me 30 million!" The nervous man behind the China Business News
desk says, "Oh? So you're not looking for me!" The two reporters say, "This is too highhanded!"
Next, from today's Xiaoxiang Morning Post:
In this reworking, the CBN
editor says nothing in response to Foxconn's demand, "You reported that I have excessive overtime, I want to you compensate me 30 million!"
The first cartoon is credited to Kuang Biao, but the second one has no attribution.
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