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Newspaper Fined for Revealing AIDS Orphan

A Beijing court on Monday ordered a local newspaper to pay compensation and make an apology to a young woman orphaned by AIDS after revealing her identity.

Beijing Chaoyang District Court ordered the local China Times to pay the 19-year-old woman 20,000 yuan (US$2,500) and issue an apology on its front page for a report published last December.

The report written by a journalist surnamed Hu carried three photos of the woman and the story of her sufferings after her parents, who contracted AIDS after selling blood, died earlier this decade.

Hu was accused of violating the young woman's privacy and damaging her reputation as the photos clearly revealed her face and carried her real name.

Although the daily was not the first to report the woman's story, Hu never interviewed the young woman and he purchased her photos online. His story was a combination of other news reports and the woman's own anonymous writings on the Internet.

His later insistence that he had done nothing improper outraged Jin Wei, an AIDS activist who supported the woman's education.

After her identity was revealed, the young woman's grades dropped sharply and she lost confidence in herself, said Jin.

Jin filed a lawsuit against China Times in March when government regulations on the prevention and control of AIDS came into effect.

Article 39 stipulates that no institution or individual is allowed to make public the names of people who are HIV/AIDS positive or their relatives.

China has an estimated 650,000 people with HIV/AIDS and discrimination against such people is still widespread.

China Times argued that it published the story to raise awareness of AIDS and did not intend to violate the woman's privacy.

According to the court, the newspaper report could negatively affect the 19-year-old's future and the report was unethical.

Jin Wei said the young woman was happy with the verdict but thought the compensation was low. China Times said it would not appeal.

(China Daily July 19, 2006)

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