Thursday, November 15, 2007

Libel tourism and the books you aren't allowed to read

A report by David Pallister on the Guardian website says:
A ferocious attack on the "chilling effect" of the English law of libel and its use by wealthy "foreign tourists" will be mounted in a top US court today, with backing from organisations that represent a majority of the world's media.

The case is being brought in the New York state court of appeals by an American academic, Rachel Ehrenfeld, against one of the richest men in the world, the Saudi investment banker Khalid bin Mahfouz. Her lawyers describe it as the most important first amendment - free speech - case in the past 50 years.
This reminds me of a recent article on Spiked which began:
In recent years, a Saudi billionaire has sued various authors and publishers of books about terrorism in England’s archaic libel courts.

As a consequence, some important books on terror and the ‘war on terror’ are simply no longer available in the UK. Some have been withdrawn by publishers following libel rulings that found in favour of the Saudi billionaire; others have been withdrawn by publishers following threats of libel action by the Saudi’s lawyers. In some instances, the books were thrown into pulping machines so that all evidence of their existence was destroyed.

Books by British, American and French authors have suffered this fate. Both books by left-leaning authors who question the ‘war on terror’, and books by conservative authors who support it, have been removed from Britain’s bookshelves. Such is the censorious nature of English libel law that these books have effectively been wiped off the intellectual map: you won’t find them in any bookshop or library.
Spiked then went on to invite the authors of five of the books that have been suppressed in this way to give a short summary of what we, the people who are not allowed to read them, are missing.

The five books were:
  • Forbidden Truth: U.S.-Taliban Secret Oil Diplomacy, Saudi Arabia and the Failed Search for bin Laden, by Jean-Charles Brisard, Guillaume Dasquié and Lucy Rounds

  • Alms for Jihad: Charity and Terrorism in the Islamic World, by J Millard Burr and Robert O Collins

  • Unknown Soldiers: How Terrorism Transformed the Modern World, by Matthew Carr

  • Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed and How to Stop it, by Rachel Ehrenfeld

  • Reaping the Whirlwind: The Taliban Movement in Afghanistan, by Michael Griffin

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