MNC hits blogger with RM10m demand

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A Japanese multinational company is demanding RM10 million by today and a public apology from lawyer-activist-blogger Charles Hector after he highlighted problems faced by Myanmar migrants working at the firm’s plant in Malaysia.

Asahi Kosei (M) Sdn Bhd claims the workers are not employed by the firm and are instead supplied by an unnamed third party and that Hector had thus defamed Asahi Kosei through his blog postings by suggesting that the firm was responsible for the alleged poor treatment of the workers. Before he was slapped with the RM10 million demand, Hector had sent two e-mails on 8 and 9 February 2011 to the company expressing concern about the workers’ problems – but did not receive any reply, clarification or denial.

Hector had also released a joint statement, endorsed by 82 civil society groups and published on his blog, to express concern about the workers’ plight.

This is an issue that extends well beyond the case at hand in its significance.

There are two major areas of concern that should be nipped in the bud:

First, an issue of freedom of expression: It is not just governments that are stifling freedom of expression. Multinational corporations too, as they grow in reach and influence, are now flexing their (economic) muscles; some of them now think that all media coverage about them should be favourable and fawning. Like many governments, some of these MNCs and large corporations think they too can silence critics. This issue may grow even more serious as more MNCs set up shop here with the signing of all those Free Trade Agreements.

Second, an issue of workers’ rights: As former MTUC president Syed Shahir, in a statement of concern released today, says, some corporations now think they can escape their responsibility to workers by using workers supplied by third parties.

It may be all right for agents and companies to assist companies in identifying and providing workers for companies, but the moment the companies accept these workers, there must immediately be an employment agreement and relationship with all these workers directly and the said company. The workers thereafter are the workers of the said company, and the company shall be fully responsible for the recognition and protection of all workers’ rights.

Any good company that respects universally accepted human rights and workers’ rights will not resort to using workers of another at their factories, and will not shirk their responsibilities to their workers with claims that they are not their workers, and when there are allegations of workers’ rights violations to try and divert this responsibility to workers to some other third party.

Since then, more than 50 local and foreign civil society groups have rallied to Hector’s side by endorsing a fresh joint statement, published on the Aliran website, expressing outrage at the firm for its “intimidation” of the blogger.

Because of the larger significance of this case, it is likely to receive international attention as an attempt to silence freedom of expression over an issue of public interest that involves workers’ rights.

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Habib RAK

Feel free to send your views to Asahi at their website here. I have expressed my displeasure to them. By outsourcing, they cannot ignore human rights. You may even copy ur email to HQ is Osaka.
http://www.asahikosei.com/enquiry.htm

FenceSitter

I am sure those MNC legal eagles know there are loop holes in the system and they know that they can and will get away with it (escape responsibility to 3rd party workers). It is the policy makers and gomen that have failed us.

LBJ

The problem is that the MNC outsourced the ill treatment and pretend everything is fine. This practice is morally wrong if not legally wrong.

Sanda

Sign an urgent appeal to support A human rights lawyer and public interest advocate faces threats of legal action for blogging about a company allegedly violating rights of migrant workers at http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2010/3659/

and see AHRC open letter at
http://www.ahrchk.net/statements/mainfile.php/2010statements/3092/

Not Mahathir

Is is very common for many MNCs in Malaysia to get their labourers/workers from contractors. In this case I think the Jap coy is right. The Jap coy did not mistreat the labourers/workers, it’s the contractor who mistreated the labourers/workers.

The … (blogger) should check first before jumping the gun.

Kometenmelodie

Yes, agreed….it is a very common practice for all companies not just MNCs these days to employ contract workers who are supplied and owned by third party employment services firms. In fact some companies do not make their products at all, outsourcing their
products 100%…

Charles obviously did not check before making accusations.

Also, I will be very careful in assessing the accusations of foreign workers since they often have hidden agendas, based on my own experience.

Kaki pulau

Your comments are very interesting. You seem to know all about recruitment agencies and out-sourcing agents operations. Could you please tell us if there are any legal regulations or guidelines to regulate the outsourcers and recruitment agents. Could you also inform us on how human trafficking occurs? Moreover, have you personally interviewed the workers concerned to say that Hector has simply made baseless assumptions? After all, you must have missed the paragraph that he had, in fact, asked the company if the information was accurate. He gave them a chance to reply, and respected their right to freedom of expression… Read more »

LBJ

We do not need a Japanese company like Asahi Kose. It is just a bully. We do not need the Kempei Tai.

tunglang

The fear of the Word of Mouth in social media is a thorn in the questionable conducts of corporations, local or multinational. The whistle-blowing or highlighting of undisclosed, sensitive misdemeanor of businesses is not the sole responsibility of bloggers but anyone who believe in a civil society and right conducts within the rule of law. What we are now seeing is the unwarranted arm twisting on individuals by these misdemeanors including political entities as in the case of Julian Assange, the founder, face and spirit of WikiLeaks. With financial clout on local political interests, … manipulation of social, economic and… Read more »

frags

I think there has to be a clear line between something that is considered defamation/libellous and something a writer writes for public interest or for the good of other human beings.

Kometenmelodie

Anil I m not sure what’s the real issue here. I don’t think MNCs take very kindly to people who defame them by publishing false accusations. While I like and respect Charles, I am not sure if he has investigated the claims of these workers throughly. While I don’t support the threat of legal actions, this is not an issue of free expression as this is a very serious accusation. I hope Charles has enough evidence to back him up and not hide behind “freedom of expression” defence. There is a huge difference between expression your opinion and making baseless… Read more »

frags

It would have been better if corporations engaged with them rather than threaten them. Clear up the confusion. Don’t further exacerbate the situation by resorting to aggressive tactics like this.

me

If someone could give more information on what Asahi Kosei (M) Sdn Bhd produces/manufactures, then people with concern on human rights issues could boycott those products, thereby sending the right ‘signals’ to Asahi Kosei and its level headed management. They want RM10 million from a blogger? Is this how they make money?