Worried about paying for libel in the UK, foreign media could withdraw

Libel laws in the UK, much like libel laws in Canada, are widely seen by the publisher/writer/free speech community as favouring those who would seek to shut down commentary and discussion. There's no such thing, for example, as “fair comment” as a defence in a Canadian or British libel suit. You must be telling the truth to avoid libel and slander liabilities. U.S. laws, on the other hand, try to balance an individual's right not be libelled or slandered with the public's right to free speech and a democracy's need to have a full and robust discussion of the issues and personalities of the day.

Now, the Guardian reports that some U.S. newspapers, including the New York Times, the L.A. Times, and others may cease distributing the few hundred copies a day there for fear that such distribution exposes them to millions of dollars in libel liability. Simlarly, those papers may block Web site access to those trying to dial in with a British I.P. address.

Britain's reputation for “libel tourism” is driving American and foreign publishers to consider abandoning the sale of newspaper and magazines in Britain and may lead to them blocking access to websites, MPs have been warned. [Read the rest]

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