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Thursday, December 02, 2004

"THE HIGHEST STANDARDS OF THE BRITISH PRESS"

The result of George Galloway's libel action may be a belated defeat for the Telegraph but overall it actually enhances the power of the press to lie whenever it wants by enhancing the traditional Reynold's defence (cica 1999).

Firstly, it yet again proves that it is an incredibly risky venture for any individual to try to get the media not to lie about them & George has shown great bravery in pushing this when all he had on his side was the truth. The judgement decided that the Telegraph's fault was not in publishing lies but in overegging the pudding by accusations such as treason. Had they not gone so blatantly over the top they would have won & George would have been bankrupted.

Theoretically this means that if I were, while randomly looking through a filing cabinet, to find an indecipherably signed document saying that Telegraph readers/left wingers/CND/Tory MPs/George Bush/traffic wardens were part of a pedophile ring/selling atomic secrets to the Albanians/shape shifting aliens (all of which it would be clearly in the public interest to know if it were true)it would be perfectly safe to publish this lie as long as I did it in a balanced way. This, of course, ignores the obvious fact that it is even more not in the public interest to be lied to on a matter of importance.

In practice, if you compare this with the LM magazine V ITN libel case where ITN (& the judge) accepted that LM's case that ITN had faked their notorious concentration camp video was proven but that LM hadn't proven that the faking was deliberate, it is quite obvious that the judiciary are likely to sum up for the big media.

In essence we have a situation where the victim has to put up 100s of thousands just to get to court & risk everything they own (unless they are as rich as Maxwell) in a case where the truth "doesn't matter" (quote from the ITN judge's summing up).

It is worth noting by comparison that the US Christian Science Monitor immediately settled & made a complete apology to George when they found it was untrue & in the LM case the article in question was purely a reprint of something already published in Germany - ITN decided they could sue under UK law but not German to suppress the truth. No wonder the British press has its unsavoury reputation when it is so thoroughly protected.

A point worth noting is that the press complaint's commission, who represent almost the entire press in their duty to "maintain the highest standards of the British press" have not had a word to say against this. Thus proving exactly how high the highest standards reach. (I have had runs in with the commission before & do not respect them)

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