Tag Archives: defamation

How to respond to consultation on website operators clause of draft defamation bill


Image by alancleaver_2000 on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

An informal consultation on the section of the draft defamation bill that covers “operators of websites” has been launched to gather feedback.

According to The International Forum for Responsible Media Blog, the consultation relates to clause 5 of the bill which intends to “provide a new defence for website operators in circumstances where the claimant can pursue his claim for defamation against the person who posted the statement”.

The consultation, being run by the Ministry of Justice, will close on Thursday 31 January (the deadline has been extended).

Those who wish to respond can do so by emailing defamation@justice.gsi.gov.uk for more information.

Media release: Libel reform campaigners respond to Queen’s Speech

The Libel Reform Campaign announced a “victory” today as the Queen’s Speech confirmed legislation will be introduced in the next 12 months to reform defamation law.

The campaign issued a number of comments from those involved in the campaign, some of which are listed below:

Tracey Brown, managing director, Sense About Science:

We and thousands of others have campaigned to stop the libel laws’ bullying and chilling effects on discussions about health, scientific research, consumer safety, history and human rights. We are really pleased to see the government has moved closer to honouring its promise of a fairer law and protection of free speech in today’s Queen’s Speech. This opens the way to developing a law guided by public interest not powerful interests.

Simon Singh, defendant in British Chiropractic Association v Singh:

I continue to be contacted by journalists, scientists and others who are being silenced by libel threats or libel claims. The reform promised in the Queen’s speech today is a welcome response to the intolerable effects of the current laws. I hope that the government will now move rapidly to bring forward a bill that protects those writing about serious matters in the public interest.

Jo Glanville, editor, Index on Censorship:

We have now have a chance for libel legislation that’s fit for the  21st century. The introduction of the single publication rule and greater protection for internet service providers will help to put an  end to the chilling effect online.

Justine Roberts, co-founder and CEO, Mumsnet:

While the draft Defamation Bill was a very good start, it didn’t go far enough to protect freedom of expression, particularly in the online environment. Websites and hosts of user-generated comment risk becoming tactical targets for those who wish to clamp down on criticism or investigation of their activities.

Philip Campbell PhD, editor-in-chief, Nature:

It is essential to the public trust in science that scientific integrity is upheld and that bad behaviour is brought to light. It is therefore imperative that libel legislation be revised to achieve a better balance of interests between those accused of misconduct and those who should be better able to write about them.

Hardeep Singh, journalist and libel defendant:

The inclusion of the defamation bill in the Queen’s Speech marks a major milestone for The Libel Reform Campaign. It can’t be right that ordinary people risk their livelihoods when getting caught up in costly libel proceedings.

The government has already investigated ways to weed out unmeritorious claims, whereby claimants will have to show serious harm before a case progresses. If passed by Parliament, these types of amendments will not only make our libel laws fairer, but go some way in restoring London’s reputation from being a ‘town called sue’.

Till Sommer, Internet Service Providers Association:

ISPA welcomes the Government’s commitment to libel reform. The current regulatory framework has failed to provide clarity to hosting and Internet service providers and has ultimately has had a chilling effect on freedom of speech online. We hope that Parliament will address the current shortcomings in the upcoming session and we will follow the political process closely to ensure that the reforms strike the best possible compromise between protecting providers, claimants and authors.

Index on Censorship: Russian journalist defeats libel claim

A Russian journalist, who was placed into an induced coma after being beaten in Moscow last year, has defeated a libel claim against him after speculating on the identity of his attackers, according to Index on Censorship.

Kommersant’s political correspondent Oleg Kashin spent five days in a coma after he was attacked outside his apartment in November.

According to Index, a Moscow court ruled in favour of Kashin as it could not be proven that accusations were made as factual statements.

The attack itself sparked an open letter from 26 media outlets and journalists calling on the president to ensure greater protections for journalists, while the Committee to Protect Journalists‘ executive director also gave a statement condemning the attack and calling for action.

Related content:

Living in limbo: Almost 70 journalists exiled in past year says CPJ

Iraq tops impunity index for fourth time over unsolved journalist killings

Austrian journalist fights to uncover political advertising spend


Guardian: Apology to be tweeted 100 times to settle defamation case

In an unusual settlement a Malaysian social activist has reportedly agreed to apologise 100 times on Twitter as part of a defamation case involving a magazine publisher, according to the Guardian.

The penalty has sparked debate among internet users about the pitfalls of social media in Malaysia where authorities have warned people to be more cautious about what they write on blogs, Facebook and Twitter.

The Guardian reports that the case was in relation to allegations made on Twitter by an individual about the publisher which was followed by an apology on the site a few hours later. But a defamation case ensued resulting in the settlement of 100 apologies on Twitter over a three day period.

Read more here…

British journalist loses appeal against jail sentence in Singapore

At the end of last week British journalist and author of a book about the death penalty in Singapore, Alan Shadrake, lost his appeal against a six-week jail sentence in the country.

Shadrake was handed a prison sentence and fined thousands of dollars at the end of last year, after being found guilty of contempt by a Singapore court.

The BBC reported on Friday that Justice Andrew Phang of the Court of Appeal panel said they affirm the sentence imposed by the judge.

According to the Telegraph after the verdict was given Shadrake said he had not expected the appeal to be successful. The Telegraph also reports that Shadrake will spend an extra two weeks in jail from tomorrow because he cannot afford to the pay the fine.

MediaGuardian: Guardian wins appeal against Iraq libel ruling

The Guardian has won its appeal against an Iraqi court ruling which found the paper had defamed the country’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.

The article in question, written by the Guardian’s award-winning Iraq correspondent, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, described fears inside Iraq that the prime minister was ruling in an increasingly autocratic manner. It reported the views of three intelligence officers, and a range of others, who commented on the nature of al-Maliki’s rule.

Full story on the Guardian at this link.

Defamation conviction against Russian journalist overturned

News broke at the end of last week that a slander verdict delivered last month against Russian journalist Mikhail Beketov has been overturned.

Beketov, who was left handicapped in 2008 by a beating thought to be provoked by his reporting, was convicted of defamation and fined in November.

But on Friday it was widely reported that a Russian court had overturned the verdict. Press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders said it welcomes the decision.

Australian editor-in-chief’s lawsuit against journalism lecturer stirs debate

Last week Journalism.co.uk reported on a legal debate brewing in Australia, after journalism lecturer Julie Posetti was threatened with legal action by the editor-in-chief of the Australian, Chris Mitchell, for comments she posted on Twitter which he claimed were defamatory of him. The tweets related to comments allegedly made by a former rural affairs reporter for the Australian, Asa Wahlquist.

At the end of last week, Mitchell’s lawyer had sent a letter of demand to Posetti asking for an apology. While Posetti and the Australian declined to make further public comment at this stage, Mitchell was quoted this weekend as saying he wished he had pursued action against other writers, in an editorial by the Australian’s environment editor Graham Lloyd.

And while debate continues about Mitchell’s decision to take action against Posetti, Australia’s Crikey has a topical look at why editors “rarely sue for defamation” in this piece by Mark Pearson, professor of journalism at Bond University.

The reality is that any media outlet worth its salt is in the defamation business. The columns of newspapers, news websites and the broadcast news outlets should be laden thick with defamation every day if their journalists are doing their jobs properly.

Australian journalism academic asked by newspaper editor to apologise for tweets

Australian journalism lecturer Julie Posetti has received a letter from the lawyer of the Australian newspaper’s editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell, asking for an apology for tweets which he claims were defamatory of him.

Journalism.co.uk reported earlier this week that Mitchell had threatened Posetti with legal action for defamation following tweets posted by Posetti in relation to comments made by former reporter for the Australian Asa Wahlquist about working at the title.

Posetti has since confirmed on Facebook that she received a “letter of demand” from Mitchell’s lawyer. The Australian reported on its blog that Mitchell has invited Posetti to visit the offices of the paper to “observe its operations for herself”.

Mitchell’s offer is contained in a legal letter send to Posetti yesterday, as part of the defamation proceedings that have become known as ‘#Twitdef’.

The letter, which has also been published by the Australian, adds that it is “immaterial” whether or not the quotes within the tweets were said.

The fact is they were published by you on an occasion which does not attract a defence and it is obvious from the above facts and email they are patently false.

In the circumstances, our client offers you an opportunity to correct the record by publishing (in agreed manner) a correction, and perhaps meeting with him, to discuss the matter.

Scotland to consult on defamation of the dead law reform

A consultation on defamation of the deceased could be launched in Scotland by the end of the year, it has been reported this week.

STV reports that Scottish ministers are to consult on reforming the law so that defamation claims can be brought on behalf of the dead.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government remains committed to launching a consultation on the defamation of the deceased (including homicide victims) and we expect to launch the consultation paper before the end of 2010.

“These are important and sensitive issues, involving a careful balancing of fundamental rights, and we are determined to take every care to ensure that they are addressed appropriately. Scottish ministers will examine the consultation responses carefully before issuing their response to it.”