NUJ welcomes high court decision in libel case against Carole Cadwalladr

  • 13 Jun 2022

Today's judgment is a win for public interest journalism and press freedom.

The libel case was brought by millionaire and co-founder of Brexit’s Leave campaign Arron Banks. His case against award-winning journalist Carole Cadwalladr stemmed from comments she made in a Ted talk and tweet, stating Banks had lied about his relationship with the Russian government. Banks argued these had defamed his character. 

On 13 June, a judgement handed down by Mrs Justice Steyn ruled in favour of Cadwalladr.

It concluded:

The claimant has failed to prove that publication of the Tweet caused or is likely to cause serious harm to his reputation. The claim in respect of the Tweet is therefore dismissed on the ground that the Tweet is not defamatory for the purposes of s.1 of the 2013 Act. 

The defendant has established a public interest defence in relation to the publication of the TED Talk pursuant to s.4 of the 2013 Act.

The NUJ has welcomed the judgement, backing Cadwalladr’s defence that her reporting was in the public interest. Had the ruling gone against her, it would have had widespread ramifications for journalists.

Banks’ decision to take action solely against Cadwalladr and not the Ted Talk platform hosting her comments, appeared a deliberate attempt to serve as a warning to other journalists in their reporting.  A common tactic used in strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs), powerful individuals seek to stymie reporting in the public interest when targeting  journalists, resulting in high legal bills.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

“This is the right result, and the NUJ and all journalists will welcome the judgement and feel relieved that Carole has won this case. However she should never have been put in the position of having to go through such a long and arduous ordeal.  

"No journalist should be targeted and subjected to legal action in this way. This type of lawfare is cynical and targeted, pursued by those with deep pockets in a manner intended to pile as much pressure on an individual freelance as possible. Carole’s journalistic career has been dedicated to investigative reporting that is squarely in the public interest – legal practices that are designed to stymie and thwart journalistic investigations and reporting need to be closed down.

“As part of our work campaigning against SLAPPs, the NUJ is calling for the introduction of a clear statutory public interest defence and a series of other measures to ensure that investigative reporting in the public interest is protected from those that seek to undermine journalists and journalism.”

Read the full judgement.

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