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Simon Singh vann libel-mål

1 april, 2010

I den kontroversiella rättsprocessen mellan författaren Simon Singh och British Chiropractic Association meddelade idag Court of Appeal of England and Wales sin dom. Simon Singh, som i The Guardian uttryckt att BCA ”happily promotes bogus treatments” (att behandla t.ex. spädbarnskolik, sömnsvårigheter och astma med kiropraktik), får rätt om att hans uttryck ska anses vara en åsikt och inte ett faktapåstående. Domen är en liten del av den större problematiken kring att vetenskap och journalistik på rättslig väg undertrycks och hålls borta från den allmänna debatten.

The Guardian och Language Log har bra artiklar om vad domstolen säger. Vad jag anser intressant är hur medveten domstolen verkar vara över den brittiska förtalslagstiftningens undermålighet. Som Lord Judge (ja, Judge är hans efternamn) skriver i domen:

”[...] the material words, however one represents or paraphrases their meaning, are in our judgment expressions of opinion. The opinion may be mistaken, but to allow the party which has been denounced on the basis of it to compel its author to prove in court what he has asserted by way of argument is to invite the court to become an Orwellian ministry of truth. Milton, recalling in the Areopagitica his visit to Italy in 1638-9, wrote:

”I have sat among their learned men, for that honour I had, and been counted happy to be born in such a place of philosophic freedom, as they supposed England was, while themselves did nothing but bemoan the servile condition into which learning among them was brought; …. that nothing had been there written now these many years but flattery and fustian. There it was that I found and visited the famous Galileo, grown old a prisoner of the Inquisition, for thinking in astronomy otherwise than the Franciscan and Dominican licensers thought.”

That is a pass to which we ought not to come again.”

”It may be said that the agreed pair of questions [1. Was there any evidence to support the material claims? 2. If there was not, did the BCA's personnel know this?] which the judge was asked to answer […] was based on a premise, inherent in our libel law, that a comment is as capable as an assertion of fact of being defamatory, and that what differ are the available defences; so that the first question has to be whether the words are defamatory even if they amount to no more than comment. This case suggests that this may not always be the best approach, because the answer to the first question may stifle the answer to the second.”

Domen är dock inte skäl att sluta kräva att regelverket måste ses över. Simon Singh har spenderat över £200 000 och två år på den här processen, som ännu inte är avslutad eftersom dagens dom bara gällde frågan huruvida Singhs ord kunde vara förtal till sin natur. Dessutom drabbas andra fortfarande av lagstiftningen. Som Tracey Brown, talesperson för Coalition for Libel Reform, säger till The Guardian:

”There is a cardiologist currently being sued by a device manufacturer, we have researchers who have been unable to publish their critique of lie detector technology because of threats of libel action. A major science journal is also currently being sued and our academics are being told to pull down blogs.”

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