Yahoo comments on settlement
with jailed chinese journalists
By Julia Cheever
November 14, 2007
Two human rights organizations yesterday announced the settlement
of a human rights lawsuit filed against Yahoo! Inc. in federal
court in San Francisco on behalf of two jailed Chinese journalists.
Wang Xiaoning, an editor of online journals, and Shi Tao, a news
reporter, advocated democratic reforms.
Their lawsuit claims they were arrested, sentenced to 10-year
prison terms and tortured in prison after the Sunnyvale-based
Internet company gave Chinese authorities information about their
Wang's wife, Yu Ling, who came to San Francisco in April to file
the lawsuit, was also a plaintiff in the case.
The terms of the settlement are confidential.
But lawyers from the World Organization for Human Rights USA
and the International Justice Project said the settlement came
after a congressional hearing last week on Yahoo!'s role in providing
Yahoo! General Counsel Michael Callahan acknowledged at the hearing
that company officials were aware the Chinese information request
referred to alleged illegal provision of state secrets. The lawsuit
contended the executives knew that alleged crime was used as a
mechanism for the prosecution and mistreatment of political dissidents.
At an earlier congressional hearing last year, Callahan had testified
the company didn't know the nature of the Chinese government's
Attorney Morton Sklar, executive director of the World Organization
for Human Rights USA, said that Yahoo! Chief Executive Officer
Jerry Yang met with the journalists' families and lawyers immediately
after the Nov. 6 hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee
and ironed out the elements of the settlement.
Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang
Sklar said that while the settlement is private, its nature is
indicated by issues raised at the congressional hearing and in
He said those issues include the need for strong efforts by Yahoo!
to help secure the journalists' prompt release from prison; consideration
of a policy to prevent future Internet information disclosures
when political repression might be at stake; and efforts to meet
the humanitarian needs of those who were imprisoned.
Sklar said, "U.S. firms have to abide by U.S. and international
laws and human rights standards when they do business abroad,
not just the requirements imposed upon them by host governments."
He said, "Obtaining the settlement also provides a strong
precedent that U.S. corporations must pay greater attention to
the human rights consequences of their actions, and that they
will be held accountable if they participate in or serve as accomplices
to arbitrary arrest and torture."
Yang said yesterday the company is working to provide financial,
humanitarian and legal support to the two journalists' families
and will also create a separate humanitarian relief fund to support
other political dissidents and their families.
He said, "After meeting with the families, it was clear
to me what we had to do to make this right for them, for Yahoo!
and for the future.
"Yahoo! was founded on the idea that the free exchange of
information can fundamentally change how people lead their lives,
conduct their business and interact with their governments. We
are committed to making sure our actions match our values around
the world," Yang said.
The lawsuit claimed Yahoo! violated international human rights
law as well as the U.S. Torture Victims Protection Act, the U.S.
Electronic Communications Privacy Act and other U.S. and California
The case had been assigned to U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken
of Oakland, who ruled in an Oct. 31 order that some preliminary
evidence gathering could begin.
Lawyers for the journalists and Yahoo! filed a notice of dismissal
of the case in Wilken's court this morning.
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