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May 1997

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[New Statesman 23 May 1997]

LETTERS A gag on free speech

In Ed Vulliamy's letter regarding events at Trnopolje (Letters, 16 May), he refers to the libel action being taken by ITN against Living Marxism. He states: "The case has nothing whatsoever to do with Îgaggingâ or Îfree speechâ as Living Marxism and its dilettante supporters, who know nothing about Bosnia, insist."

As a regular reader of Living Marxism, I suppose I must be numbered among their "dilettante supporters".

Vulliamy's insistence that the case has nothing to do with gagging is wrong. Assuming Living Marxism can raise the vast sums of money necessary to defend itself in court, if it loses the case it faces the distinct possibility of closure.

The disappearance of Living Marxism would deny me the opportunity to read its analysis of events and to make my own judgement about the validity of that analysis. That decision will have been made for me by the actions of ITN's lawyers and a High Court judge.

As far as I am concerned, I am the one who makes the decisions about what I read ö I am not prepared to have ITN's lawyers making that decision for me.

With the disappearance of Living Marxism, I would be denied access to a unique and often controversial source of analysis. Using libel laws to force a magazine to close is not only a gag on free speech, it is narrowing down the parameters of political discussion to what is deemed acceptable in polite liberal company by journalists such as Vulliamy. To me, any attempt to restrict discussion in this way is unacceptable.

PS: What is a "groupuscule"? Whatever it is, it certainly is not featured in my dictionary.


Stanford-le-Hope, Essex

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