New York Times – United States


September 15, 2008
‘Libel Tourism’: When Freedom of Speech Takes a Holiday

When Rachel Ehrenfeld wrote “Funding Evil: How Terrorism Is Financed
and How to Stop It,” she assumed she would be protected by the First
. She was, in the United States. But a wealthy Saudi businessman
she accused in the book of being a funder of terrorism, Khalid bin Mahfouz,
sued in Britain, where the libel laws are heavily weighted against
journalists, and won a sizable amount of money.

The lawsuit is a case of what legal experts are calling “libel
tourism.” Ms. Ehrenfeld is an American, and “Funding Evil” was never
published in Britain. But at least 23 copies of the book were sold online,
opening the door for the lawsuit. When Ms. Ehrenfeld decided not to defend
the suit in Britain, Mr. bin Mahfouz won a default judgment and is now free
to sue to collect in the United States.

The upshot is a First Amendment loophole. In the Internet age,
almost every American book can be bought in Britain. That means American
authors are subject to being sued under British libel law, which in some
cases puts the initial burden on the defendant to prove the truth of what
she has written. British libel law is so tilted against writers that the
United Nations Human Rights Committee criticized it last month for
discouraging discussion of important matters of public interest.

continue reading at          www.nytimes. com/2008/ 09/15/opinion/ 15mon4.html

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