U.K. Libel Ruling a 'Resounding Victory'
Yesterday's House of Lords ruling easing British libel law is being hailed by news organizations for bringing English journalists closer to the freedoms enjoyed by reporters in the United States. As reported by
The Times of London, five law lords unanimously ruled in favor of a public-interest defense that more closely resembles the "actual malice" standard applied in U.S. libel cases involving public officials and public figures.
The law lords ruled that The Wall Street Journal Europe satisfactorily established that the article in dispute was both of public interest and written responsibly. The law lords said that judges should look at the opinion as a whole when deciding a libel case and not just at the defamatory statements standing alone. As The Times explains:
Britain’s libel laws have traditionally favored the plaintiff -- so much so, in fact, that plaintiffs often made substantial efforts to sue for libel in Britain when possible, even when a media organization is based in another county. Before Wednesday’s ruling, plaintiffs only had to prove that false statements were published, and the statements were damaging to their reputation in order to prevail.
In Washington, The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press called the decision "good news for American journalists who might be sued in the U.K." It quoted Stuart Karle, an attorney for Dow Jones & Co., which owns the Journal, who said that "because U.S. publications can be read on the Internet, there can now be some additional comfort that whenever your articles are read in English-speaking word, if you did a good and careful job, you’re set legally."
The Times has in-depth coverage of the ruling:
Among bloggers commenting on the ruling are:
Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on October 13, 2006 at 03:52 PM | Permalink
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