Tag Archives: libel

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


Greenslade: Six newspapers sued for libel by Christopher Jefferies

On his blog today Roy Greenslade outlined the libel case Christopher Jefferies is bringing against the Sun, Daily Star, Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Daily Express and the Daily Record.

Mr Jefferies was arrested in December, as part of the Joanna Yeates murder investigation, and later released by police having been eliminated from their inquiries. Greenslade said at the time of Jefferies’ arrest he wrote about the press coverage “arguing that it amounted to a character assassination”.

Law firm Simons Muirhead & Burton partner, Louis Charalambous, leads the team representing Mr Jefferies. A statement released this afternoon by the firm stated: “Mr Jefferies will be seeking vindication of his reputation for the terrible treatment he received”.

BBC: David Cameron’s concern about injunctions creating privacy law

The BBC has reported that the prime minister, David Cameron has expressed his unease at judges using human rights legislation “to deliver a sort of privacy law”.

Mr Cameron made the comments about injunctions during a question-and-answer session at a General Motors factory in Luton.

What ought to happen in a parliamentary democracy, is Parliament, which you elect and put there, should decide how much protection we want for individuals and [on] freedom of the press and the rest of it.

The full article can be read here.

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.

Press Gazette: Freelancer in libel case represented by Carter-Ruck

An update from Press Gazette on the libel fight of freelance journalist Hardeep Singh, which reports that the freelancer is being represented by high-profile law firm Carter-Ruck – better known for its work elsewhere…

In October the High Court in London granted Indian national His Holiness Sant Baba Jeet Singh ji Maharaj the right to appeal in his libel case against Singh.

Singh was sued by His Holiness Sant Baba Jeet Singh ji Maharaj, the head of a fringe Sikh religious institution, for an article published in the Sikh Times in 2007. The piece written by Singh called Jeet Singh “an accused cult leader” and alleged that his teachings were not in line with mainstream Sikh doctrine.

The case was thrown out by Justice Eady in May 2010, who ruled for a permanent stay with no right to appeal. In May Singh said the case had already cost him “in excess of £90,000”.

Full story on Press Gazette at this link…

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.

Number of libel claims last year highest in a decade, claims law firm

More defamation claims were issued in the high court last year than in any year since 1998, according to London law firm Reynolds Porter Chamberlain.

Figures released yesterday by the firm reveal that 298 claims were issued in 2009, a 15 per cent rise on the 259 in 2008.

The figure for 2009 is also the highest since the introduction of civil prodedure rules in 1999, known as the Woolf reforms, which were designed to reduce the risk of costly disputes and aid pre-court settlements.

Jaron Lewis, media partner at RPC says: “This is the third year in a row where the number of claims has increased, firmly putting to bed the notion that libel law is not a serious challenge for the media. There are now nearly 50 per cent more libel claims each year than there were three years ago.

“Despite efforts to reduce the likelihood of expensive defamation litigation, the number of claims has been creeping up consistently as claimants continue to rely on favourable laws to bring expensive and often unnecessary litigation through the courts.”

RPC points to the increasing number of defamation cases being brought by new law firms, amount of material published on a daily basis, particularly online, and a rise in the number of claims brought relating to allegations of involvement with extremist groups and terrorism.

According to Lewis, the number of claims reaching trial has remained constant, suggesting that more claims are being settled or withdrawn before trial.

Libel reform coverage on Journalism.co.uk Editors’ Blog

LIVE: Follow the Defamation Bill debate

The second reading of Lord Lester’s Defamation Bill takes place today with 22 peers debating it in the House of Lords.

The bill proposes significant changes to current libel legislation to address online publishing and could also offer greater protection for journalists reporting on parliamentary proceedings.

Journalism.co.uk is following the action – the reading starts at 10am – and we’ll be adding updates to this blog as they come in. You can also watch a livestream of the session on the UK Parliament website.

Follow the ‘more’ link below for previous entries.


Lord Lester closes the reading, responding to individual comments.

He confirms that sites hosting third party comments, such as mumsnet, would be classified as innocent facilitators online and therefore not liable.

He adds that his bill was always aimed at protecting vulnerable parties.

“I am not interested in creating a bill for the media, I am interested in the individual, the critic, the newspaper.

“I am very glad others who are not lawyers took part in the debate, this is too important a subject to be left to just the legal profession.”

In response to the justice minister’s announcement that the government will draw up a draft law, he says he wondered if he was “alive at all or if I am in heaven, because I wasn’t expecting this response”.

“What he has said is extremely encouraging, indicates an open mindness to reform (…) and I’m sure that it’s better for the government to have a draft bill and then a joint committee looking at it across both houses.

“Then hoping we are in good health an actual bill that will start in this house.”

In a final vote the bill was agreed to be given a second reading.

Continue reading

Lord Lester’s Defamation Bill debate live on parliament website this morning

The second reading of Lord Lester’s Defamation Bill, which would introduce sweeping changes to current libel legislation in England and Wales, will take place at 10:00am today.

You can watch the debate live via the UK parliament website – Journalism.co.uk will be reporting what happens.

The bill, which received its first reading in front of parliament on 26 May, could offer greater protection for journalists covering parliamentary proceedings and seeks to update libel legislation in light of online publishing.

The bill proposes to:

  • Introduce a statutory defence of responsible publication on a matter of public interest;
  • Clarify the defences of justification and fair comment, renamed as ‘truth’ and ‘honest opinion’;
  • Respond to the problems of the internet age, including multiple publications and the responsibility of Internet Service Providers and hosters;
  • Protect those reporting on proceedings in parliament and other issues of public concern;
  • Require claimants to show substantial harm, and corporate bodies to show financial loss;
  • Encourage the speedy settlement of disputes without recourse to costly litigation.

“My main concern is with the chilling effect, where NGOs, regional newspapers and other more vulnerable publishers fear that they may get caught up in costly libel procedures. That is the main thing the bill is concerned with, to reduce or try to eliminate an unnecessary chilling effect,” Lord Lester told Journalism.co.uk in June.

Today’s reading, which is expected to last until lunchtime, will be debated by 22 peers, including a speech from Press Complaints Commission chair Baroness Peta Buscombe. A full list of those speaking can be seen on the Government Whips Office website.

The second reading is another step forward in the Libel Reform Campaign, led by Sense About Science, English PEN and Index on Censorship, which calls for extensive changes to existing libel legislation, in particular a reduction in costs for defendants.
Mike Harris, public affairs manager of the Libel Reform Campaign, told Journalism.co.uk:

Lord Lester’s Bill is the first attempt at wholesale reform of our libel laws in 70 years and provides a real opportunity to fundamentally rethink their purpose. The Libel Reform Campaign and our 52,000 supporters have made the case that reform is necessary – and that Parliament needs to take forward legislative changes rather than leaving the law to the subjectivity of judges. We hope that at the second reading debate Peers back Lord Lester’s Bill to open up a conversation about how we rebalance our laws to protect both free expression and reputation.

But some commentators who have been following the campaign’s efforts urge a note of caution about the likely progress of the bill. Blogger Jack of Kent (a.k.a. David Allen Green) told Journalism.co.uk why:

The Lord Lester Bill is good news, but only to an extent. It ranges widely, and so the debate in the Lords can also range widely. It contains some interesting proposals, especially on striking out and the capacity of corporations to sue.  However, the Bill has little chance of making any further progress, unless the government suddenly chooses to devote time and departmental resources in supporting it. The best we can realistically hope for is that a parliamentary committee is formed which can then seek to take the bill forward. Overall, I would put the chances of the Bill being enacted in full or in part by 2011 as under 50:50.