Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Taking a Stand Against "Libel Tourism"



Jim Hill, a bigwig in the Spalding County Republican Party, is a friend of Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld and brought this matter to my attention.  It's not every day that I come out and praise Democrats, but it's very good that Sen. Leahy supported and President Obama signed this bill.  Ehrenfeld was a victim of "libel tourism" in Britain when Khalid bin Mahfouz, a wealthy Saudi, sued her in a British court over her book Funding Evil, Updated: How Terrorism is Financed and How to Stop It.  Mahfouz also went after the writers of Alms for jihad and as a result, Cambridge University Press went so far as to request it be removed from libraries in the United States.  I suspect this has something to do with how few copies Amazon.com seems to have, since Cambridge University Press agreed to destroy all unsold copies.

("Libel tourism" is particularly bad in Britain, whose libel laws impose the burden of proof on the defendant and not the plaintiff.  How delightfully medieval.)

According to his New York Times obituary, Mahfouz had been libeled in the past--people falsely accused him of being Osama bin Laden's brother-in-law.  However, this still does not mean that the "chilling effect" due to fears of libel judgements does not exist.  The United Nations Human Rights Committee has taken issue with British libel laws, as have others.

The UN: http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/hrcommittee/ireland2008.html

The Global Journalist: http://www.globaljournalist.org/stories/2004/07/01/libel-tourism/

The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/07/books/review/Donadio-t.html?ex=1350532800&en=a46a9c67602861ee&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

In particular, the UN report and the New York Times point out that due to the Internet, British libel laws are causing a "chilling effect" worldwide.

And in many of these cases, it's rich people from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia--my least favorite Middle Eastern country, more so than Iran--who are behind it.  TGJ reports that the Saudi ambassador to Britain successfully pressured the Daily Mail to not publish an excerpt of While America Slept, which is about 9/11.

Kudos to the House and Senate for their strong support of this bill and kudos to Obama for signing it.  Freedom of speech forever.

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