Defamation Claims in 2020: A Libel Thaw?

Royal Courts of Justice in 1909

Just published on the International Forum for Responsible Media (Inforrm) Blogan article by yrstrly on what we can learn from the High Court defamation claims issued in 2020.

I scraped data from the HM Courts & Tribunal Service e-filing system and was able to extract some insights on how the Defamation Act 2013 and recent Court judgments have affected the kinds of claims made.

Notes on #Batley

Protest at Batley Grammar School

Last week, a controversy erupted in Batley, Yorkshire, after a teacher showed his class a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed, during a discussion about the Charlie Hebdo massacre of 2015.

The school has many Muslim students and some of their parents were angry at the teacher for having done this. As we are all probably aware by now, some branches of Islam (not all) consider any depiction of the Prophet to be undesirable and blasphemous.

Where there is an alleged blasphemy, free speech rights are engaged, and people like me become motivated to opine. In this particular case, I was not so much motivated as mobilised: TalkRADIO called me at short notice to chat to Kevin O’Sullivan about it. Here’s our conversation, the first draft of my thoughts on the matter.

There is more to say, however. As I have come to realise whenever such controversies kick-off, there are usually several issues rolled up in the debate. I think it’s more intellectually honest to post ‘notes’ on what those issues are, rather than posting a piece of unequivocal click-bait that condemns one side or the other.

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Speaking at the Muslim Council of Britain on Islamophobia and Free Speech

MCB Online event

On Tuesday evening I participated in the launch of Defining Islamophobia: A Contemporary Understanding of How Expressions of Muslimness are Targeted, a report published by the Muslim Council of Britain.

I wrote a short article for inclusion in the report, explaining why I think the new definition of Islamophobia that the report recommends would be a good thing for free speech. Ambiguity is the ally of censorship, and so a narrower definition of Islamophobia — one that is rooted in racism, rather than an opposition to Islamic ideas and theology — should reduce the chill on free speech.

The full report may be downloaded from the MCB website, and the launch event is available to view on Facebook. My contribution, where I expand on some of the issues I raise in my article, is at around 29 minutes.

Update

I also published the text of my article on SSRN.

Talking About Coronavirus Testing Inefficiencies on the BBC

I have some mild coronavirus-like symptoms. Its probably nothing, but now everyone in our household needs a test. Life and work are on hold while we struggle to get an appointment, and then wait for the results.
Yesterday morning I spoke to Vanessa Feltz on the BBC Radio London Breakfast show about my frustrations. You can listen below or on SoundCloud. The full show is available on BBC Sounds for 30 days.
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