SPJ Applauds Congress For 'Libel Tourism' Hearing

Fighting the practice suing U.S. journalists in foreign courts where there is less press freedom

The Society of Professional Journalists has given a shout-out to Congress for holding a hearing on the issue of "libel tourism."

That is the practice of suing U.S. journalists in foreign courts where there is less press freedom than they are afforded by the First Amendment in the U.S.

The issue is the subject of a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law Thursday at which SPJ is testifying.

Former Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA), Democrat Joe Lieberman (I-CN) and others hve pushed for legislation in previous Congresses to protect U.S. Citizens from such venue shopping.

While it is primarily a print issue, SPJ legal adviser Laurie Babinski points out that the Islamic Society of Boston sued both the Boston Herald and a local Fox TV station in 2006 for alleging its ties with terrorism. It eventually dropped the case.

In a speech to the media institute last fall, noted First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams talked of the importance of such legislation, saying England has become "a choice venue for libel plaintiffs from around the world, including those who seek to intimidate critics whose works would be protected in the U.S. under the First Amendment but might not in that country. That English libel law has increasingly been used to stifle speech about the subject of international terrorism has raised the stakes still more."