Times to take legal action against Media Lens website?

The editors of MediaLens – a website aimed at exposing propaganda in mainstream media reporting – has claimed that the Times has threatened to take legal action against the site for publishing an email from the Times’ chief foreign commentator Bronwen Maddox and allegedly encouraging MediaLens readers to send ‘threatening emails’ to the writer.

The original piece ‘Selling The Fireball’, which sparked the attention of Times Newspapers’ legal manager Alastair Brett, questioned Maddox’s commentary on Iran’s relationship with Europe and the US.

Readers were asked to email Maddox – as well as Ian Black, Middle East editor of the Guardian, which also had its coverage challenged – with the following disclaimer:

“The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. If you do write to journalists, we strongly urge you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.”

According to Peter Wilby writing on Guardian.co.uk, the Times became concerned by “vexatious and threatening emails from visitors to Media Lens” received by Maddox.

“My job is to stop journalists having their time wasted like this. It’s not proper behaviour for Media Lens to give out people’s emails and make a mess of their inboxes,” Brett is reported as saying.

Excerpts from an email sent by the columnist have since been removed from the site after threats of legal and police action from Times Newspapers made on June 28 and July 2.

“We have sought legal advice and, having essentially zero resources for fighting a court case, feel we have no choice but to delete Maddox’s email from our media alert, ‘Selling The Fireball’, as demanded. . . We will have more to say about this in due course, as will others,” says a message on the site’s homepage.

4 thoughts on “Times to take legal action against Media Lens website?

  1. Bob

    Outrageous behaviour which should not be tolerated. It’s a shame that Media Lens isn’t big enough to challenge the Times in court. They’d win.

  2. baz

    “It’s not proper behaviour for Media Lens to give out people’s emails…”

    Aren’t these emails publicly available anyway? If they are public knowledge then Medialens is doing nothing wrong. If they aren’t, then why not? Aren’t journalists accountable to their readership?

  3. Anthony

    Medialens do good work, but their approach is, at times, counterproductive. In criticising journalists, they list things that the journalist +hasn’t+ mentioned, and use this as a stick to beat the journalist. Of course, there is an infinite number of things that one can +fail+ to mention – some important and some arbitrary. Medialens have a tendency to mix the arbitrary with the important – which weakens their case. And I could point out a lot of important things that Medialens routinely fail to mention. But pointing out what people +fail+ to mention is ultimately a feeble form of criticism.

    Medialens’s writings also sometimes have an inquisitorial, witch-hunt kind of tone. They, themselves, remain polite, but their followers often pick up this tone in ways which may come across as more threatening. It would be ridiculous to deny this, although it’s not necessarily Medialens’s fault.

    Still, none of that excuses the silly and heavy-handed Murdoch legal threat, which should be condemned by anyone who supports free speech.

  4. Marie X

    In keeping a close eye on the mainstream media, Media Lens (and its ever growing number of dedicated contributors) has become one of the most important and highly necessary organisations to emerge in recent times, and a real find for people like me who have had a rude awakening to the inherent bias and propaganda that is churned out daily by the likes of the BBC. Journalists and media giants do not like to have their work challenged or exposed, and never has that been more evident than with this latest episode in which Rupert Murdoch’s little helpers have thrown the mother of all tantrums. They realised pretty quickly however, that bullying and attempting to silence an organisation that monitors propaganda and spin would not be the smartest move in the world – the silence that followed the tantrum has been positively deafening..

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