HBO Dodges Mitre’s Defamation Claims

     MANHATTAN (CN) – There was nothing defamatory about a segment of HBO’s “Real Sports” that found child labor in the manufacture of Mitre soccer balls in India, a federal jury found Friday.
     In a statement, HBO read the verdict as a vindication of their journalism.
     “We are delighted with the jury’s decision, which confirms what we have said since the beginning of this legal proceeding in the fall of 2008: this case was without merit and the ‘Real Sports’ reporting was unimpeachable,” HBO said. “We couldn’t be prouder of the ‘Real Sports’ franchise and the award-winning work done over the past 20 years.”
     On Sept. 16, 2008, “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel” ran a segment titled “Children of Industry.” Correspondent Bernard Goldberg told viewers that his crew encountered children as a young as six being forced to stitch soccer balls for the U.K.-based company Mitre in the slums of Jalandhar, India.
     “They have no childhood,” children’s rights advocate Kailash Satyarthi said in the segment. “They have no freedom.”
     Mitre fought back that same year with a defamation suit claiming that the segment’s talk about “debt bondage,” “slavery,” “forced labor,” and “indentured servitude” were nothing more than a “hoax.”
     After a monthlong trial that started last month, a jury quickly concluded that Mitre fell short of their burden of proving HBO “grossly irresponsible” in their segment, the Hollywood Reporter said on Friday.
     A Mitre representative expressed disappointment with the verdict, but said “we are pleased we were able to tell our side of the story to the general public.””As the trial documented, our long record of working to eliminate child labor was strongly endorsed,” the representative added.

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