Cadwalladr Court of Appeal decision a major blow to public interest journalism

  • 19 May 2023

The Court of Appeal has instructed journalist Carole Cadwalladr to pay costs in excess of £1m to multimillionaire Arron Banks.  

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has expressed its dismay at a decision by the UK Court of Appeal that will create a chilling impact on journalists and media freedom. Journalist Carole Cadwalladr has been ordered to pay 60 per cent of multimillionaire Arron Banks’ costs, totalling more than £1m in libel damages from a TED talk she delivered in 2019. 

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: 

“This decision sends a deeply worrying message to all journalists. The decision, on what are incredibly high costs, is a major blow to public interest journalism, given the judge’s clear position that there was a valid public interest defence at the time of publication.  

"The NUJ will be encouraging members throughout the union to offer solidarity and boost practical support towards Carole’s costs. No journalist should be put through what Carole has experienced. The government must take action now, to introduce legislation it has promised to tackle SLAPPs and the abusive practices of those with no regard for media freedom."

Banks sued Cadwalladr claiming comments in her TED talk caused serious harm to his reputation and, in March, the Court of Appeal ruled against Cadwalladr, agreeing the continued publication of the talk had caused harm to Banks’ reputation after 29 April 2020, when a statement was issued by the National Crime Agency detailing Banks had not broken the law. 

The NUJ condemned Banks’ lawsuit against Cadwalladr recognising it as a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP), often pursued by wealthy individuals attempting to halt reporting through intimidation and harassment. Banks did not take legal action against the TED talk platform. The union has previously expressed support for Cadwalladr including through its seat on the UK Anti-SLAPP coalition.  

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