US state attempting to limit London libel tourism

New York State legislators have introduced a bill to protect resident journalists from libel judgments in foreign jurisdictions that fail to meet the free-expression standards of the United States.

The bill is entitled the “Libel Tourism Prevention Act”. Introducing the bill, the legislators sponsoring it refer to American journalists who have been “hauled before kangaroo courts on phoney-baloney libel charges in overseas jurisidctions”.

No guessing which “overseas jurisdiction” they are most concerned about.

The lawmakers’ move follows the case of Rachel Ehrenfeld, who was sued by Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz over allegations about him made in her book, Funding Evil.

In 2005, the High Court had ruled against Ehrenfeld and Mr Justice Eady awarded bin Mahfouz and his sons £30,000, although only 23 copies of the book been circulated in England and one chapter had been posted online.

Since then, Ehrenfeld has been fighting the case through New York State and Federal US courts, attempting to render the High Court judgement unenforceable in the United States — without success.

In a wider-ranging report on the phenomenon of libel tourism in London out today, the International Herald Tribune also examines the recent case of the Danish tabloid Ekstra Baladet, which is being sued by Icelandic bank Kaupthing.

“If you were a small newspaper and sued in London you could close them in a few months,” Ekstra Baladent editor Bent Falbert tells the IHT.

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