libel tourist

Libel tourism

Libel tourism is a form of forum shopping in which plaintiffs choose to file libel suits in jurisdictions thought more likely to give a favourable result. It particularly refers to the practice of pursuing a case in England and Wales, in preference to other jurisdictions, such as the United States, which provide more extensive defences for those accused of making derogatory statements.

A critic of English defamation law, journalist Geoffrey Wheatcroft, ascribes the practice to the introduction of no win no fee agreements, the presumption that derogatory statements are false, the difficulty of establishing fair comment and "the caprice of juries and the malice of judges." Wheatcroft contrasts this with United States law since the New York Times Co. v. Sullivan case. "Any American public figure bringing an action now has to prove that what was written was not only untrue but published maliciously and recklessly."

Two other critics of English defamation law, the US lawyers Samuel A. Abady and Harvey Silverglate, have cited the example of Irish/Saudi businessman Khalid bin Mahfouz, who has sued or threatened suit 33 times in England against those who accused him of knowingly funding terrorism.. Bin Mahfouz has also take legal action in Belgium, France and Switzerland against those repeating the accusations. George W. Bush advisor Richard Perle threatened to sue investigative reporter Seymour Hersh in London, because of a series of critical articles Hersh had written about him. In 2006 actress Kate Hudson won a libel action in England against the British edition of the National Enquirer magazine after it published an article suggesting she had an eating disorder.

The Ehrenfeld Case

Khalid bin Mahfouz and two members of his family sued Rachel Ehrenfeld, an Israeli-born writer living in the United States over her 2003 book on terrorist financing, Funding Evil, which asserted that Bin Mahfouz and his family provided financial support to Islamic terrorist groups. The book was not directly published in Britain, although more than 20 copies of her book had been purchased online through web sites registered in the UK, and excerpts from the book had been published globally on the abcnews webs site. Ehrenfeld chose not to defend the action. In his judgement the judge criticised Ms Ehrenfled for attempting to cash in on the libel action without being prepared to defend it on its merits and specifically rebutted her suggestion of forum shopping. The judge in the case ruled that she had to pay £10,000 to each plaintiff plus costs, apologize for false allegations and destroy existing copies.

Libel Terrorism Protection Act

Two members of the New York State Legislature, Assemblyman Rory I. Lancman (D-Queens) and Senator Dean Skelos (R-LI), introduced a "Libel Terrorism Protection Act" in both houses of the Legislature (bills no. A09652 and S 6676-B) in January 2008 to amend the New York civil procedures in response to the Ehrenfeld case. The bill would enable New York courts to assert jurisdiction over anyone who obtains a foreign libel judgment against a New York publisher or writer, and limit enforcement to those judgments that satisfy "the freedom of speech and press protections guaranteed by both the United States and New York Constitutions. The bill passed the Senate unanimously but ran into problems in the Assembly, where an advisory committee to the state court administrator opposed the bill on the grounds that it may be unconstitutional. On 2008-03-31, the New York State legislature passed the bill by a unanimous vote, and it was signed into law by Gov. Paterson.

Proposed Federal legislation

The Free Speech Protection Act of 2008, a Senate companion to a House bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Pete King (R., N.Y.) and co-sponsored by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D., N.Y.), is a bill proposed by senators Arlen Spector and Joe Lieberman. The bill would bar U.S. courts from enforcing libel judgments issued in foreign courts against U.S. residents, if the speech would not be libelous under American law. The bill would also permit American authors and publishers to countersue if the material is protected by the First Amendment. If a jury found that a foreign suit was part of a scheme to suppress free speech rights, it could award treble damages.

See also


External links

  • THE LIBEL TOURIST ( - A short documentary detailing one such case involving bin Mahfouz

Search another word or see libel touriston Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature