HBO wins libel case involving soccer ball-child labor report

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NEW YORK (AP) — HBO did not defame a British sporting-goods company with a report that showed children stitching the company's soccer balls, a federal jury in Manhattan has decided.

Friday's verdict came after a monthlong trial over a 2008 installment of HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" that dealt with child labor.

Mitre Sports International said it was libeled when it was the only company identified in the broadcast that showed children stitching soccer balls for a nickel an hour in Jalandhar, India.

"They have no childhood," children's rights advocate Kailash Satyarthi said in the segment. "They have no freedom."

Mitre attorney Lloyd Constantine told jurors that HBO had delivered a "pack of lies" and "reckless and intentional falsity" to its viewers by overlooking the fact that Mitre goes to great lengths to prevent child labor in the sporting goods industry.

Gumbel, the program's host, testified that the report was the kind of hard-hitting journalism he had in mind when he created a monthly sports magazine.

Mitre said in a statement it was disappointed with the verdict.

"We may have lost the case, but the fact remains that Mitre has, and always will, continue its work with organizations to eliminate child labor," the statement said.

An HBO spokesman said the network was delighted with the jury's decision.

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