Lawyer Steven Price, who specialises in media law, comments on the Listener‘s use of legal threats to silence a blogger:
In the comments section of the correction and apology, someone has helpfully posted a link to a copy of HotTopic’s original post. Don’t you just love the internet? On the off-chance that the link is removed in the near future, let me take the liberty of reproducing it here. By all means, pay a visit, and encourage others to do likewise. I hope that the post receives exponentially greater attention as a result of this legal threat.
I don’t say that because I’m a free speech absolutist, or because I think the internet ought to be a law-free zone. In general, I think people who defame others online deserve all they get. I doubt this is the first time internet material has been removed in NZ as a result of a legal threat, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Nope, I object to this because I think the Listener has used a tenuous legal claim to bully a blogger into retracting some moderate and reasonable criticisms. I don’t like it when anyone does this, but it’s particularly ugly when the heavies are acting for the media.
Some context: HotTopic – a serious blog about global warming – questioned the Listener’s removal of Dave Hansford as its Ecologic columnist. The blogger wondered whether Hansford’s removal had anything to do with his recent column criticising climate change sceptics. The post is largely a model of fairness. It sets out the background facts. It raises questions rather than making allegations. It even allows that the Listener’s editor may have made the change for other reasons. It plainly expresses comment. Readers can judge for themselves what to think. Bloody hell: how many blog posts merit that accolade? (For my part, I doubt Hansford was removed because of the column. The blog post is temperate enough that others have reached that view too).
For a media house to use that kind of stand-over tactic against another publication is just unacceptable. We don’t need to stoop to the level of the lawyer to settle our differences … That’s what editorials are for. Use the tools of the trade to defend your position, to explain, to communicate. If you can’t do that, you’re not an editor I would bother reading, let alone writing for.
If a legal threat to some dumb-ass Kiwi sheeplover magazine I’ve never heard of in my life resulting in the Kiwi sheeplovers dismissing some country town journo is a ‘free speech’ issue then so is banning of commenters from blogs. I don’t think either of them are.
And then like a good libertarian, he makes a stand for freedom. Freedom for big companies to sue bloggers, that is.
Defamation law is there to be used, Bimbo Baggins. I have in fact argued that defamation law outside the US can be too broad and should be reformed. You can google me on this. So you have nothing to pin on me, you dishonest, hypocritical little creep. If you’re unhappy with the scope for defamation law, call for it to be changed. But as long as it’s there there is no legal impropriety in people using it.
So, if slavery was legal, Soon might argue that the law should be changed, but he would see nothing wrong with owning slaves.