Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A Victory for Supervision of Public Opinion?

Danwei reported that CCTV, the official television news station in China, has defeated a libel charge case filed by a towel manufacturing company. In its program, CCTV had exposed the towels being made there as of low quality and contained cancer-inducing chemicals. While the low quality part is true, "there was no evidence that the towels contained carcinogenic substances", according to an official test report.

The manufacturer filed libel suit in Beijing First Intermediate Court, demanding a public apology and damage. The Court "dismissed the charges, saying that 'manufacturers should tolerate sharp criticism from the public and the media.'", according to Danwei.

The Danwei article also cited editorials from several mainstream newspapers in China, hailing the verdict as "a victory for supervision of public opinion". Beijing Youth Daily compared the case with the New York Times Co. v Sullivan case in 1960, and framed the issue as a free speech one.

It's obvious that the court cases Fang Zhouzi has to face are very similar to this by CCTV. This is even more true to the most recent case involving the CEB Rice. Could this "victory" be extended and help on his cause? We could only hope. However, as Danwei also deftly pointed out:
Different from the United States, case law is not in China's law system, which means judges don't need to follow precedents. So even though CCTV won its case, it doesn't mean any other media will be immune from similar charges.

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