More on Libel Reform

From Sunny Hundal:

A couple of years ago, I republished a 20-year-old Guardian article that shed some light on activities that blogger Paul Staines, aka Guido Fawkes, was involved in at the time. Within minutes of publishing it I was served with a legal notice claiming I was trying to defame him, and eventually I had to take it down after some wrangling. I didn’t have the legal backing to test his challenge in court.

I mention this incident in light of attempts by English PEN and Index on Censorship to examine the impact of libel, as Jo Glanville explained last week, because libel law has had a huge impact on the internet…Whether it be science reporting, digging into false stories or simply highlighting an individual’s past, bloggers are constantly being harassed by libel law.

I can sympathize with Sunny still being annoyed with Staines two years on: as well as being a blatant attempt to discourage legitimate investigation into someone’s past public and political activities, it was a double dose of hypocrisy: not only as regards the the common interest of all bloggers, but because Staines is a long-standing member of the “libertarian right”. Here he is on the Libertarian Alliance website, included on a list headed “They also serve”; he also wrote some pamphlets for the organisation. The need for UK libel reform is urgent; yet some of those (Staines is not the only one) who call themselves “libertarian” are on the other side…

5 Responses

  1. In many ways the law is just part of the problem, as often Libel does not get contested in court – like this case – because it is safer for the blogger to back down and avoid expensive costs etc.

    Paul Staines might well have failed in his accusation, but he was never tested due to the fear-factor involved.

    That he is a supposed ‘libertarian’ is frustrating, and in many ways he is just the same as the politicians he supposedly holds to account – after all he is not being digging up their past, so why not accept someone else digging up his past?

  2. He is not ‘beyond’ diggin up their past is what it should have said!

  3. […] than once waved lawyers around at bloggers when it has suited him to suppress information (see here), or when he has felt particularly riled (see here). It’s also questionable whether he would […]

  4. […] we know that Paul Staines uses Donal Blaney to send out legal threats against bloggers (see here), and I blogged on some similarities between young Conservative radicals then and now here. A […]

  5. […] need for libel reform is urgent. We read about these high-profile cases where an innocent person is put through hell (most […]

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