On August 10, 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage (SPEECH) Act, meant to protect U.S. writers and speakers against “libel tourism,” a practice whereby libel plaintiffs sue Americans—and often win large damages—in countries with weaker speech protection laws than those of the United States.
Recently in Libel Category
On Feb. 1, 2010, the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of a libel suit against best-selling author John Grisham and several other authors who wrote about two men wrongfully convicted of murder and rape in Oklahoma.
Massachusetts Jury Rejects Truthful Libel Claim
A Florida jury awarded the former chief of medicine at a Veterans Administration medical center more than $10 million in a libel suit against the St. Petersburg Times in an Aug. 28, 2009 verdict, despite the paper's insistence that its stories were true.
In a March 2007 decision, the Iowa Supreme Court allowed a defamation action against a newspaper to proceed despite finding the allegedly libelous statements to be true. Justice Jerry Larson’s opinion for the Court in Stevens v. Iowa Newspapers, Inc., 2007 Iowa Sup. LEXIS 34 (Iowa 2007) explicitly recognized “defamation-by-implication” actions in the state, permitting a suit by former The (Ames) Tribune columnist Todd Stevens to continue to trial.
In a disappointing decision for criminal libel law opponents, the United States Court of Appeals (Tenth Circuit) in Denver declined to rule on the constitutionality of Colorado’s criminal libel law in an opinion handed down in April 2007, Mink v. Suthers, 2007 WL 1113951 (10th Cir. Apr. 16, 2007)(formerly titled Mink v. Salazar, 344 F. Supp. 2d 1231 (D. Colo. 2004)).
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has refused to reconsider its ruling against the Boston Herald that upheld an award of more than $2 million to a defamed judge.
Novel Media Suit Alleges Illinois Supreme Court Libel Ruling Violates Civil Rights
A small Chicago-area newspaper and a former columnist have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, arguing that his position and influence in the state court system has denied them a fair chance to appeal a $4 million libel judgment.
The media’s relationship with the government in Russia remains uneasy. In August 2007, Russian authorities made new strides in the investigation into Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya’s death, but critics say such developments are illusory and that the mastermind behind the contract killing will never be identified by the government. Russian authorities also detained a journalist in September 2007 on charges of extorting money from a government official, a claim the journalist’s newspaper denies.
China promised foreign journalists more freedom to report this year in the prelude to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, but recent reports issued by human rights organizations Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International conclude that these promises remain largely unfulfilled.
Police in New Castle, Pa. seized a computer and several recording devices from the New Castle News on July 25, 2007, saying they were used to record telephone conversations illegally with two local public officials.
Lawyers for Time magazine said they will contest a $106 million libel judgment handed down by Indonesia’s highest court to former dictator Suharto Aug. 31, 2007.
Privilege Protects Publishing False Information in the Public Interest
The British Court of Appeal for England and Wales extended qualified protection from libel suits for the authors and publishers of books on Oct. 11, 2007, ruling that they enjoy a qualified privilege so long as they act responsibly. The ruling may make it more difficult for libel tourists to win defamation suits in England.