17 September 2013
Daily Telegraph rallies against libel reform
The Daily Telegraph has outlined its opposition to libel reforms proposed by Lord Justice Leveson following his high profile inquiry into media ethics.
Last week, Helen Grant, the coalition's justice minister, announced that the government will back the Leveson inquiry's findings into defamation that will make it easier for alleged victims to sue media companies.
As it stands, if someone issues a writ for libel against a newspaper or TV broadcaster, upon losing they have to pay the defendant's legal costs and these can often run into the millions of pounds.
But under the new proposals, poorer claimants would have access to a "one-way" court costs order that will mean they would not have to pay a single penny even if they lost.
This was one of the chief recommendations issued by Lord Justice Leveson, who said he is concerned about the plight of non-celebrities targeted by some tabloid publications that are alleged to have shone the spotlight on vulnerable members of the general public in the past.
Some of these cases, it was revealed in the Leveson Inquiry, led to depression or even suicide for those affected.
But people that felt they were wrongly targeted by the media often struggled to sue because they did not want to incur huge legal bills that could have left them bankrupt.
Commenting on Ms Grant's proposed backing of the changes, a Daily Telegraph staff editorial read: "A free press is a critical part of our democracy and civil society, as our work on exposing the MPs' expenses scandal proved.
"It would hardly be conducive to investigative journalism, or simply fair, if media organisations have to pay out every time a false charge of defamation is brought against them."
The Daily Telegraph was the driving force behind revelations on MPs expenses that saw some politicians face prison time over wrongful claims that cost the taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds.
By Chris Stevenson