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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Michael Travis on Rachel's Law

Freedom of Speech Upheld in Golden State - - But Not From Maine to New Mexico
Will Americans Remain Gagged by the New World Order?

by Michael Travis

The governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, signed a law yesterday that will protect American journalist and broadcasters from British and foreign libel judgments and the court rulings of other. The new legislation effectively negates the practice of libel tourism.

It represents the growing opposition among Americans to Britain's libel laws, which are in conflict with the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which protects freedom of speech.

The law gives California courts the power to block libel judgments from Britain and Canada which, the state’s Senate Rules Committee say, have "become the jurisdictional Mecca and Medina for the rich and famous".

The Committee adds its new law would "diminish the chilling impact of libel tourism on aggressive reporting about important international issues."

The California law echoes one enacted by the state of New York in March 2008, called the libel terrorism protection act, which is the direct result of the Rachel Ehrenfeld controversy.

Dr. Ehrenfeld was sued in London by a Saudi Arabian businessman over her 2003 book on terrorist financing, Funding Evil, which alleged that the man and his family had provided financial support to Islamic terrorist groups.

Though her book was not published in Britain, some 20 copies had been purchased through UK-registered websites and several excerpts had been published online.

Dr. Ehrenfeld, who chose not to defend the action, was criticized by British judge, Justice David Eady, who ruled that she must pay £10,000 to each plaintiff plus costs; apologize for her false allegations; and destroy all existing copies of her book.

The decision outraged many American politicians, journalists and lawyers who believe the British courts are inhibiting freedom of expression. Dr.Ehrenfeld has also turned into a campaigner on the issue. She wrote an article last week in protest against the plight of Paul L. Williams and Canada's libel laws. Dr. Williams is being tried in Canada for statements he made concerning jihadi activity at McMaster University. The suit, he contends, has stripped him of his professional career and has left him financially destitute.

Two other states - - Illinois and Florida - - have enacted legislation to shield people from libel judgments made outside America.

There is also a proposal to create a federal US law, the Free Speech Protection Act, to bar American courts from enforcing libel judgments issued in foreign courts against US residents if the speech/editorial content would not be considered libelous under American law.

The Daily Mail (London) in an editorial that appeared yesterday refers to London as "the libel capital of the world". It concludes: "Doesn't it shame us that one American state after another... has found it necessary to pass laws protecting its citizens' freedom of expression from the book-burning rulings of the British courts?"

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