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IFJ condemns attempts by embattled food company to censor free speech

(IFJ/IFEX) - 8 October 2009 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned as "unforgiveable censorship" attempts by the US fruit company, Dole Food, to prevent the release of the documentary film "Bananas" by Swedish journalist and film maker Fredrik Gertten, which exposes threats to the health of banana plantations workers in Nicaragua.

"The company's action is designed to legitimise censorship," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "We condemn the use of law to try to evade media scrutiny and public accountability. It is an unforgiveable violation of free speech."

The US fruit company Dole Food has lodged a lawsuit for defamation against Gertten following the screening in Los Angeles of his documentary film. The film focuses on the legal dispute in Nicaragua where banana plantation workers claimed illnesses were being caused by the use of the pesticide DBCP in banana fields.

The company contests the claims and after heavy lobbying succeeded in removing the film from the Los Angeles film festival. The action drew widespread criticism from press freedom groups, according to reports.

The IFJ says that this high profile interference with free speech impacts on the ability of the public in the developed world to judge the ethical standards some Western firms apply to workers in developing countries.

"It is only right for the press to expose to public backlash companies which apply double standards at home and abroad,"' added White. "We support the film maker in resisting this blatant violation of his fundamental right to freedom of expression."

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