Be for Malik, or be an agent of the state

Journalist Shiv Malik is facing a legal bid to hand over the notes of his interview with a suspected terrorist – even though said terror suspect is now in police custody. Further ‘production orders’have now been filed by the police against the BBC, Sunday Times, Prospect Magazine and CBS.

The reason? Presumably police wish to exploit the relationship of trust which enables a source to speak freely to a journalist, often off the record.

If Malik loses his High Court bid to resist the disclosure order – and change the law via judicial review – journalists will effectively become agents of the state. It is time for all journalists to draw a line in the sand and stand squarely with Malik to ensure that our notes remain our own and that the UK continues to have a free press.

Imagine you have a £100,000 vase and an insurance company quotes you £68,000 to protect it. What would you do? Be very careful with the vase probably.

Yet the going rate for After The Event Insurance for someone seeking £100,000 of libel damages is £68,000. This premium protects them against the risk of losing and having to pay a publisher’s libel fees.

Why would anyone pay such a premium? The truth is that most claimants don’t part with a penny – they simply add it to the bill for the publisher, together with the double-your-money fees charged by their lawyers under CFA rules.

The suspicion is that wealthy libel claimants such as Ashley Cole are using ATE costs to simply ratchet up the financial pressure on publishers. And because ATE is taken out at the outset, publishers are faced with a bill running into tens of thousands of pounds to pay the premium, even if they settle the case immediately.

The time has come for the Ministry of Justice to seriously review a libel system in which fees for publishers have spiralled out of control.

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