[PR Week - 28 February 1997]
ITN sues Two Ten over Living Marxism release - by Jemimah Bailey
ITN is suing Two Ten Communications over a press release it distributed on behalf of Living Marxism magazine on the UNS Newswire service.
It is the first known case of a PR newswire service being sued for distributing a press release.
ITN claims the Living Marxism press release, which contained allegations about ITN's coverage of the Bosnian conflict, was defamatory.
Two Ten managing director Paul McFarland said: 'We are taking advice as to whether to defend or seek a settlement. Normally all copy is read and checked by journalists for accuracy and potentially libellous statements. Routinely we go back to clients and advise them on changes to press releases. On occasions we have refused to carry press releases. Obviously no procedure is absolutely foolproof and we are now reviewing our procedures'.
Living Marxism press officer Jan Macvarish said it was the first time the magazine had used a commercial newswire.
Under the new Defamation Act 1996, distributors have a defence if they can prove they 'took reasonable care in relation to its publication' and 'did not know, and had no reason to believe' that the distribution 'caused or contributed to the publication of a defamatory statement'.