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Hacks 1, Litigants 0

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Hacks 1, litigants 0

A result today, for journalism, for the public interest and I think for the flak trade too, if that is how they could see it.

Arron Banks, a businessman and political donor that The Guardian is inevitably going to describe as a “multimillionaire Brexit backer” lost a libel action against journalist Carole Cadwalladr.

Note that the action was against, not the well-resourced Guardian group, but against the individual hack.

Cadwalladr has suggested Banks was being less than truthful about his relationship with Russia. Once in a Ted Talk, and once in a tweet.

So, she wasn’t writing for The Guardian when she made the allegation, a cloudy area for us all now that social media is a part of everyone’s lives.

The judge, a Mrs Justice Steyn and now a national hero, said: “A key factor, in my judgment, is whether Ms Cadwalladr had reasonable grounds to believe that her intended meaning was true … I consider that when she gave the Ted Talk, she did.”

She also concluded that the tweet which Mr Banks also complained about, had not caused “serious harm” to his reputation.

And that even if it had, the public interest defence might also have been reasonable.

Banks says he will appeal. Even if he does, he shall remain unappealing. (Note to lawyer: I’m allowed to say this.)

The Guardian editors say the case was “an example of a powerful wealthy person targeting an individual journalist for their work”.

The point here is not whether the hack was entirely right or not, but what journalists are allowed to say in public spaces.

For hacks and flaks to co-exist, there has to be an understanding that every disagreement isn’t going to lead to a lawsuit. That you might guide us sensibly here and there and that we might accept that guidance. (We don’t have to.)

If we start off as sworn enemies solely looking to leg each other over, it is going to be awfully hard to conduct even mundane amounts of business.

Let’s leave that nonsense to lawyers.

 

Press release of the day

A punch back from the beleaguered Petrol Retailers Association, under fire for the soaring cost of filling up the tank.

Gordon Balmer, Executive Director of the Petrol Retailers Association, said:

“The briefings provided by Government spokespeople to the media indicate that Ministers do not understand how fuel prices are set.   We have contacted the Secretary of State for BEIS on multiple occasions offering to meet and explain fuel pricing. However, we are yet to receive a response.

“By law the 5ppl fuel duty cut has to be passed on – and it has been.  Petrol retailers have been unfairly scapegoated for rises in the wholesale price of fuel over which they have no control.”

Gordon is right.

Stories that will keep rolling

1) Does Crest Nicholson think the threat of rising interest rates is leading to a race to get house deals over the line?

2) What’s the highest prediction for inflation?

3) What are rate rises doing to the buy-to-let market?

4) Is FirstGroup just bidding its time on the private equity bid, or is its rejection of the offer sincere?

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