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Why the media need your help – online rights and the law

Speaker1

I don’t think ordinary citizens are aware of the state of the media and the state of laws in relation to freedom of information.  Media is fragile, and it’s been fragile for a while, because of the internet.  Most of the media is migrating to the internet, but they haven’t figured out a way to make money.  So who suffers the most?  Which sections?  It’s the investigative journalism and it’s their ability to defend themselves against the legal firms that specialise in the fact that information doesn’t have importers.  They know how to abuse the legislation, the loopholes and which countries have the best libel laws and so forth, such as is a legacy in the UK, libel tourism, and we of course are tackling that as well.

Speaker2

Our Danish newspaper published a series of articles about one of the Icelandic banks in 2005 I think.  They were taken to court in the UK, because some of the articles had been published on the internet in English, so the paper was sued in a UK court.  And they settled out of court, withdrew the articles, not because what they were writing wasn’t correct, but because they financially couldn’t bear the costs of going the whole way.  It’s a huge financial burden on any organisation to have to go through this.  So what newspapers do is they pre-censor.  You know, everything is lawyered.  Every article in The Guardian is lawyered in the morning before it’s published. 

Speaker1

It’s the responsibility of legislators to help the media to be able to be that tool to take complicated matters and explain it in a way that the general public can understand, and we’re not suggesting to make anything legal that is already illegal, and the only thing we’re suggesting to change is that if it is clearly in the benefit of the general public to know that should override the personal libel, which I think is important.  Because the personal libel has now completely taken over I mean because you look at the gag orders in the UK, nobody believed me when I started to tell people about these super injunctions, so much against what I think is just common sense to allow this sort of abnormality to manifest in a civilised society like the UK.

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