STOCKHOLM (AP) — Dole Foods is withdrawing a defamation lawsuit against a Swedish filmmaker after complaints in Sweden that it was trying to limit free speech, the company said Thursday.
Dole had sued filmmaker Fredrik Gertten for showing his controversial documentary "Bananas!" despite a court ruling that said it was based on a fraud.
The move sparked protests in Sweden, critics said the food company was trying to interfere with the freedom of speech.
In a statement, Dole said it decided to withdraw the lawsuit "in light of the free speech concerns being expressed in Sweden, although it continues to believe in the merits of its case."
"While the filmmakers continue to show a film that is fundamentally flawed and contains many false statements we look forward to an open discussion with the filmmakers regarding the content of the film," Dole's Executive Vice President and General Counsel, C. Michael Carter said.
The documentary shows the alleged plight of Nicaraguan workers who say they were made sterile by a pesticide used at Dole banana plantations in the 1970s. It was completed before a fraud was uncovered showing that the workers were recruited by a lawyer to lie. That ruling has been appealed.
Earlier this week Swedish food chain ICA — a Dole customer — held a meeting with the company saying it felt the filmmaker had the right to express his side of the story.
"We met their European division and ... put forward our view on the matter," ICA's fruit and vegetables chief Lars Astrom told The Associated Press. "We said we thought they should withdraw the lawsuit and asked them to get back to us, and now they have done that."
The film's producer, Margarete Jangard, welcomed Dole's decision.
"It feels fantastic that we have been able to make a difference, without any money, only with the help of all the people who have supported us," she told the AP.
The film was shown twice in June with a lengthy written disclaimer by Los Angeles Film Festival organizers who said it did not present a fair and accurate account but was worth showing as "a case study" of what happens when a story changes after a documentary is completed.