Thanks to BFP reader Irun Man for tipping us to this story…
LONDON, Oct. 11 — Britain’s highest court ruled Wednesday for the first time that journalists have the right to publish allegations about public figures, as long as their reporting is responsible and in the public interest.
The ruling, a unanimous judgment by the Law Lords, is a huge shift in British law and significantly improves journalists’ chances of winning libel cases in a court system that until now has been stacked against them.
English judges have traditionally been so sympathetic to libel plaintiffs that many people from abroad have sued in English courts — even if the publications in question have tiny circulations here — because they have had a much better chance of winning here than at home.
Newspaper editors said the decision, in the case of Jameel v. Wall Street Journal Europe, would free them to pursue stories vigorously without constant fear of lawsuits.
“This will lead to a greater robustness and willingness to tackle serious stories, which is what the judges said they wanted,” said Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian. Until now, he said in an interview, newspapers have had to police themselves to the point where “stories weren’t getting in the paper or were being neutered by clever lawyers who knew how to play the game.”
continue article at the New York Times (link here)