Thursday, June 04, 2009

Simon Singh on the libel laws

I've just read Simon Singh's essay on why he has decided to appeal against the BCA ruling.

"As a journalist, I have always been aware of the libel laws, but I don't think I ever fully appreciated the chilling effect they have on journalism - important articles are withdrawn and other stories are simply not commissioned because of the fear of libel."

Please read the rest of this article. It is moving and profound (as well as a great piece of writing).


Anonymous Gilles said...

There's more. Not only is it becoming dangerous to voice an opinion on any subject or person, it's increasingly risky to have an opinion on some countries policies, i.e. Israel's. The slightest critic is immediately branded as anti-semitism, particularly in the US media. See the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004, here:

Remember the misadventures of Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland? See here:

And Criticizing Israel is not an anti-Semitic act (Nieman Watchdog, 5 January 2009) by Haviland Smith (retired CIA station chief):

I've never experienced being accused of anti-semiticism myself, but I can see many instances of self-censorship in my local media (the CBC) every time there's a "crisis" in the Middle-East. And the same is true of any "community", specially if they are vocal.

Fri Jun 05, 06:46:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Well, Gilles, looking at these reports, which are, of themselves, 'opinion' and not squashed - I can see the UK media is not intimidated in this issue, at least. During the recent conflict the BBC seemed to me to report from both sides.

It also strikes me how the ordinary citizen can't actually tell how much of the information he hears is already filtered...It is worrying.

Fri Jun 05, 07:16:00 am  
OpenID maxine said...

It's a tricky issue, becuase I like having my information pre-filtered. It's why I read a newspaper or a blog by a journalist to get my news and analysis, rather than go to the unfiltered internet, where virtually everything is ill-informed, over-opinionated rubbish and worse.
I also think that the media is quite wrong in the way it attacks the reputations and personal lives of people for no good reason apart from its own profit.

So I believe in some filtering and some restraint on what can be said.

Fri Jun 05, 08:13:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Maxine: Yes, I agree we all need some filtering, but I suppose the important point is who is doing the filtering, and whether we trust them. Not all journalists are trustworthy, in my opinion, but there are some I do trust to get as close to the truth as they can.

And yes, unnecessary intrusion is wrong, so I suppose that 'filtering' in this way is acceptable.

Fri Jun 05, 08:34:00 am  
Anonymous Gilles said...

I agree that the public doesn't need to know everything (and God knows we're flooded with trivia by the media), but "pre-filtered" information is like pre-cooked food.

As for the BBC not being intimidated, see this:



Fri Jun 05, 06:22:00 pm  
Anonymous Gilles said...

Sorry, the link was somehow saucissonné and should read like this:

Fri Jun 05, 06:26:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Ah yes, I remember that, Gilles - and although I suppose that was controversial, at least the BBC told us about the controversy - or at least were made to! At least we heard from both sides...

I rather like the idea of a saucissonné link, BTW.

Sat Jun 06, 08:33:00 am  
Blogger kimbofo said...

Thanks for this, Clare.

As a journalist / editor I'm very conscious of the libel laws and do think they are necessary to protect people's reputations. However, Singh is completely right, the fear of being sued for simply being critical means many important stories get canned. It seems that the public's right to know is being thwarted by big business/big organisatons who use the threat of writs to quash criticism of their behaviour / actions.

I really hope Singh wins his case.

Sun Jun 07, 07:56:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Exactly, Kimbofo! Thank you for your comment.

Sun Jun 07, 11:04:00 am  

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