Uzbek Billionaire Gets British Blogs Pulled

(minor correction: one webhost is involved, not two)

Uzbek billionaire Alisher Usmanov, who is currently negotiating the purchase of a British football team, has succeeded in getting a webhost to pull high-profile blogs that made allegations against him.

In the 1980s, Usmanov was imprisoned in his homeland – he claims this was for political reasons, and that his record was expunged in the post-Soviet era. Blogger (and former UK ambassador) Craig Murray disputed Usmanov’s spin on his past; Tim Ireland at Bloggerheads reported the story. Their webhosts have now received nasty legal letters, and have pulled the plug. In Ireland’s case, this has had a knock-on effect to several other blogs hosted on his site – including that of London mayoral candidate Boris Johnson.

One UK blogger particularly offended by this attempt at censorship is Conservative Party activist Iain Dale, who has been attacked on Ireland’s blog on numerous occasions:

You would think that I would be highly delighted if Tim Ireland’s Bloggerheads site was shut down by his webhost, wouldn’t you? After all the abuse he has directed my way you’d think I’d be taking great pleasure in the fact that that is exactly what has happened. But you’d be wrong…Despite the fact that a large part of his front page is taken up with wholly unjustified smears against me, I defend his right to say what he wants about me. It’s called freedom of speech. And if he does it to me, why should a Russian Oligarch be any different?

It’s most refreshing to see someone who may not like what someone writes about him nevertheless defending his critic’s right to free speech. Let’s hope the example catches on among Dale’s fellow Tories –  in particular, for example, Paul Staines, the supposed “libertarian” who threatened Pickled Politics a few months ago over a 1980s newspaper report retrieved from Lexis-Nexis.

This is the second high-profile libel threat to hit the blogosphere recently: a few weeks ago, US businessman Stuart Pivar, who had written a very strange book about evolution, filed a lawsuit againt scientist PZ Myers and Seed magazine after Myers referred to Pivar as a “crackpot”. Pivar, along with his lawyer Michael Little and PR agent Matthew Rich, were then subjected to widespread mockery, and Pivar withdrew the case (although Little, who trained in the UK, is now threatening to sue the distinguished legal scholar who told Pivar his case had no chance).

Meanwhile, my own investigation into another Uzbek billionaire can be seen here.

UPDATE: A television news report:

UPDATE 2: Tim Ireland is back on-line.