Britain's Libel Laws Finally Join the Modern Age
Big news out of London yesterday-- big news for journalists there and all over the world. The Law Lords, Britain's highest court in the House of Lords, ruled that newspaper publishers, editors and reporters who are sued for libel are not required to prove the truth of the allegations contained in their pieces. The decision represents a sea-change in British law and brings that country's libel standard much closer to where ours is.
Not surprisingly, British newspapers were delighted with the news. Me? I was impressed most by the language used by the judges.
According to The New York Times' take on the story: "Another member of the panel, Lord Scott of Foscote, defended the right of news organizations to publish material deemed private by the government. 'It is no part of the duty of the press to cooperate with any government, let alone foreign governments, whether friendly or not, in order to keep from the public information of public interest the disclosure of which cannot be said to be damaging to national interests,' he wrote. A third member, Baroness Hale of Richmond, wrote, 'We need more such serious journalism in this country, and our defamation law should encourage rather than discourage it.' Amen.
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