Saturday, October 14, 2006

New freedom for UK journalists

Journalists (in the UK) have won the freedom to publish news articles that contain allegations about public figures without the threat from libel. As long as their reporting is in the public interest, and has been undertaken in a seriously responsible manner, then it can be published without repercussions under English law. Such is the verdict of The House of Lords, which yesterday (Oct 12) found that even if newsworthy allegations later emerge as defamatory and false, journalists can publish without fear of reprisals. (Freelance UK)

11 comments:

  1. i dunno y but i am preety circumspect about how they will use this freedom . western media is more about public attraction than public intrest.

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  2. I thought they had quite a bit of freedom already!

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  3. the verdict is quite interesting and tempting actually, but just wondering how it would be in India if something like that happens here!!

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  4. Can we term this as freedom? Allegations are allegations unless proven. If they do not dare to spell out the proofs they have, what we have will be more and more tabloids and yellow-paper operations I fear. Because this "freedom" can be used to defame anyone now - whether he's wronged or not.

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  5. Poornima..... I have just learnt that press in India won this freedom long back. Nearly 12 years back in India the Supreme Court had laid out down the guidelines of reporting. The operative portion of the verdict in 1994 says that individuals can't invoke the right to privacy or defamation charges if "the subject voluntarily thrusts himself into controversy or voluntarily invites a controversy". Basically it means if a person is already involved in an issue that's in the public domain and a newspaper reports that, that doesn't amount to invasion of privacy.

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  6. Me:)...... I completely agree with you when you say allegations are allegations, unless proven. But the other side is that there are a lot of "facts" and "truths" which remain as mere allegations since there is no evidence. Many of these "truths" aren't published by any respectable media organisation since there is no proof. They are just talked about. But some yellow journals go ahead and publish them.

    This is the area where we tend to segregate different media channels with the parameter of credibility. Credibility is an intangible factor that works between an individual reader and a media organisation. There are people who believe only yellow journals and there are people who believe only big mainstream dailies.

    People of repute usually do not attach importance to yellow journals. They also do not have complaints, generally, against mainstream newspapers. Because big media organisation do take efforts to make sure that the limits of freedom aren't breached. There could be individual cases where someone has overstepped the limits. By and large the freedom is not misused by the mainstream newspapers.

    To understand the freedom media enjoys in democracies like India and the UK, one must listen to first-hand of accounts of how media works in some other countries where there is monarchy and dictatorship. Right after Independence Nehru said "I will prefer a free press with all its ills than a press that is controled."

    Having said all this, I do agree with you that someone could misuse this freedom to defame another, whether he is right or wrong. Only consolation is that democracies have a judicical recourse which can be invoked.

    Thanks for the comment.

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  7. On the face ot it, it looks good but I don't know how far desirable it is.

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  8. It is always good to see legal rulings that favor the media's right to inform the public about the actions of public figures. That right is basically been protected in the United States by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that malice must be proven in cases that involve alleged slander or libel of a public figure. The defense against malice is due dilligence in determining that information about a public figure is true. Most public figures don't engange in lititgation about stories about them in the mainstream media since they know the difficulty in proving malice, or a reckless disregard for truth. Perhaps that is because repsonsible media do not recklessly disregard the truth.

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  9. newsmanbook.....: Thanks a lot for the insight into the American system. It is a very useful value addition to the post.

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  10. Dear Pradeep,

    It is good news, becuase I prefer free media, in India media is semi free most of the news are censored. People are too scared to raise finger against corrupt politicians. This is the reason some mafias are in parliament and in vidhan sabha.

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  11. While there can't be absolute freedom, media in India and the Indians are fortunate to have quite an unshackled media.

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