Thursday, 13 May 2021

Media Quotes of the Week: Russian billionaires use London libel courts to sue journalist over Putin book to silly season arrives early with gunboats

Nick Cohen in the Observer on how journalist Catherine Belton is being sued in the UK libel courts by four Russian billionaires and a Russian oil company over her acclaimed book Putin's People: "The former Moscow correspondent for the Financial Times now faces a pile-on from Russian billionaires on a scale this country has never witnessed...London’s lawyers are hard at work. Carter-Ruck, CMS, Harbottle & Lewis and Taylor Wessing have a billionaire apiece in a kind of socialism of the litigious...Rosneft and Abramovich are not only suing HarperCollins, they are suing Belton personally If they are successful, they could strip her of what few assets she owns. You can see why journalists walk around on tiptoes."

The Financial Times in a leader:
"Despite reforms curtailing so-called libel tourism, England remains a venue of choice for claimants. Unlike in the US, there is no constitutional protection of free speech and fewer requirements for public figures to meet before they can successfully sue...Claimants must be able to vindicate their rights in court where claims are well founded. But the costs of the current system hand the super-rich an advantage and can distort outcomes. The scales of justice must balance accuracy with greater tolerance of free speech. Without a recalibration, the system could enable privatised censorship."

Hillary Clinton, interviewed in the Guardian“The technology platforms are so much more powerful than any organ of the so-called mainstream press, and I do think that there has to be not just an American reckoning but a global reckoning with the disinformation, with the monopolistic power and control, with the lack of accountability that the platforms currently enjoy.”

Kelvin MacKenzie on Press Gazette on the Sun's former chief reporter John Kay who has died aged 77: "He loved his gossip but what you could never prise from him was the source of his stories. Disgracefully Rupert Murdoch did that when he ordered the details of payments made to public officials by Sun journalists should be handed to Scotland Yard. John was among 22 staff that Murdoch threw under the bus to save his own skin when threatened with a corporate charge which would have forced him out of his own company. In my years of running The Sun Murdoch never asked where John’s fantastic tales came from; he was only interested that we had them so we could sell more papers, make more money and stuff the opposition. All 22 were cleared, but what broke John was one of his best contacts over the years ended up being jailed."

Roy Greenslade on Twitter:
"UK press guilty of ignoring innocent victims of Ballymurphy. Inquest coverage: Guardian, p1 with pic; Times p1, one par + p19; Telegraph, p1 one par + p9 (with that insensitive headline); Mail, p22; Mirror, p21; Express, p21; Sun, p20; i, p1 mention + p4. Editors just don't care."

Mr Justice Cohen refusing a request by Telegraph owner Sir Frederick Barclay to keep details of his divorce settlement private, as reported by the Guardian:
“[Barclay] is a public figure who should have been aware of the potential consequences of disobedience of court orders and his behaviour in the proceedings should not be allowed to pass completely under the radar.”

All Party Parliamentary Group on Religion in the Media report Learning to Listen
: "Journalists must be able to question freely and criticise religious beliefs – such criticism may well be merited. Highlighting shortcomings and exposing hypocrisy is a vital feature of public interest journalism and a responsibility not to be shirked in a democracy that values freedom of the press. But too often in our evidence sessions, we heard that media reporting on religion can be sensationalising, that it can reinforce problematic stereotypes, commit basic mistakes and use imprecise language, and that it homogenises faith communities whilst ignoring the diversity within faith groups."

The report recommends: "We argue for a corrective to the current system of press regulation to enable groups to make complaints on the grounds of discrimination. We also call for government to look again at press regulation arguing that there is a need for greater public confidence that the press is meaningfully, independently regulated...We propose religious literacy training be formally incorporated into professional media qualifications and journalism courses."

The Observer in a leader: "Oh, what a lovely war! The summer silly season arrived early for the Brexiters and their Fleet Street cheerleaders, and didn’t they enjoy it! In a week that commemorated the death of Napoleon, and on the eve of today’s Europe Day, which celebrates peace and unity across a continent for which greater generations of Britons fought and died, they picked a foolish scrap with the French for old times’ sake, then claimed a spurious victory...Real battles threaten communities around the globe. But what’s the big news for foreigner-baiting tabloids? The imaginary “Battle of St Helier”, a fake story told with sick relish, bad puns and shameful jingoism."

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