Thursday, October 12, 2006
Britain's highest court has ruled that media who act responsibly and who are reporting on stories of public importance" may not be held liable for defamation. In the case of Jameel v. Wall Street Europe, the Law Lords found that Wall Street Europe should not be held responsible for libel because it was reporting on a matter of public concern and had behaved responsibly. It found that lower courts had interpreted a prior standard, the so-called Reynolds defense of 2001, too narrowly, and consequently had not given the media enough breathing room to report stories of importance to the public. The lower courts misinterpreted the "Nicholls factors" in the Reynolds case as giving them "hurdles" that the defendant media had to jump over rather than examples of reportage that met the standard of professional journalism. Read more in the Media Guardian here and the Times online here. Read a story about the opinion in the New York Times here. The opinion suggests that libel law in Britain will now more closely resemble libel law in the US in terms of the media's ability to report matters of public concern in a responsible manner.