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A law unto ourselves

Britain's libel laws are derided around the world—and they threaten journalism at home too

By John Kampfner   August 2009

The Americans have finally had enough of us. In June the House of Representatives passed a bill protecting US citizens from British libel laws. It contains the embarrassing claim that libel actions in British courts are often designed to get around American laws on free speech, and are “intended not only to suppress the free-speech rights of journalists, academics, commentators, experts and other individuals, but to intimidate publishers.”

The law’s catalyst was Rachel Ehrenfeld, an American writer sued for libel in London—not the US—by a Saudi businessman in 2005 over allegations that he had links to terrorists. Ehrenfeld had not…

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