Friday, July 16, 2010

Brit Investigative Reporters Take a Hit in Times Libel Ruling

The TimesImage via Wikipedia
According to, Metro Police Detective Sgt. Gary Flood's successful outcome this week in his libel action against the Times has negative ramifications generally for investigative reporters toiling in the U.K.

Lord Justice David Neuberger headed the panel of three appeal judges who ruled in the Flood case that newspaper articles are not shielded by the so-called Reynolds privilege. The defense was spawned in 2001 and protects investigative reporters who act responsibly in reporting in good faith on matters of public concern.

Flood sued the Times in June 2006, after an article appeared that accused him of accepting bribes. An initial judicial ruling found the Reynolds qualified privilege applicable to the Times' print version account of the Flood story, but held the privilege was lost on the Times' website version of the story because an official  probe had cleared Flood of the bribery allegations.

Critics of the appeals court decision are fearful that it throws into chaos the long-recognized libel defense of "neutral reportage," which protects journalists neutrally republishing allegedly defamatory remarks if the story is newsworthy and concerns a public controversy, the remarks at issue are made by a responsible individual or group, concern a public official, public figure or organization, and the story containing the allegedly defamatory remarks is accurate and includes denials or other views.

The Times is expected to petition the Supreme Court for permission to appeal the ruling.

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