A union representing journalists in the United Kingdom and in Ireland has called on its members to boycott Yahoo! in protest over Yahoo!’s conduct in China. Yahoo!’s cooperation with the Chinese government has allegedly resulted in the jailing of Chinese pro-democracy writers and journalists.
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ), which represents approximately 40,000 British and Irish journalists, photographers, editors and illustrators, has asked its members to boycott all Yahoo! services until Yahoo! “changes its irresponsible and unethical policy.”
Yahoo! has provided information to Chinese law enforcement agencies about at least three people who were later jailed. Most recently, a journalist called Shi Tao was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for “divulging state secrets” after forwarding an government email warning journalists not to cover the Tiananmen Square anniversary.
Yahoo! boss Terry Semel has previously stated that Yahoo! had no other choice than to comply with Chinese law and was not in a position where the company could influence or change Chinese policy. However, he stated that Yahoo! was looking to the US government to provide assistance in convincing China of the need for more freedom of speech and media freedom.
A spokesperson for Yahoo!, Mary Osako, reacted to the union’s call for a boycott by releasing a statement that included the following comments: “When we receive a demand from law enforcement authorized under the law of the country in which we operate, we must comply. … Failure to comply in China could have subjected Yahoo! China and its employees to criminal charges, including imprisonment. Ultimately, U.S. companies in China face a choice: comply with Chinese law, or leave.”
“The choice in China or other countries is not whether to comply with law enforcement demands for information. Rather, the choice is whether or not to remain in a country. We balance the requirement to comply with laws that are not necessarily consistent with our own values against our strong belief that active involvement in China contributes to the continued modernization of the country – as well as a benefit to Chinese citizens – through the advancement of communications, commerce and access to information.”