UK reporter gains ground in chiropractor libel suit

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

UK journalist Simon Singh has gained ground in his ongoing defense against a libel suit leveled by British chiropractors, with the reversal of a ruling that had said his words were (potentially libelous) fact instead of (protected) commentary. The words in question included the assertion that the British Chiropractic Associationhappily promotes bogus treatments.”

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Photo by Dave McLean via Flickr

The dispute has been over whether or not his words imply that the BCA was being consciously dishonest and deceptive.

Covering Health has written about UK libel cases in the past, and this case has received a fair amount of attention, but those who haven’t been following the Singh case can find a competent primer on Wikipedia.

The BBC calls it a “landmark ruling,” then explains:

BBC News science correspondent Pallab Ghosh says that, had Justice Eady’s ruling stood, it would have made it difficult for any scientist or science journalist to question claims made by companies or organisations without opening themselves up to a libel action that would be hard to win.

The BBC reported that Singh praised the ruling and said the legal wind finally seemed to be at his back, but that he bemoaned the fact that it had cost £200,000 to get to that point.

“The Court of Appeal’s made a very wise decision, but it just shouldn’t be so horrendously expensive for a journalist or an academic journal or a scientist to defend what they mean.

“That’s why people back off from saying what they really mean.”

(Hat tip to Knight Science Journalism Tracker)

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