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Thursday 19 June 1997


Helene Guldberg, publisher of LM magazine, said today that whatever the verdict in the McLibel trial, the case demonstrates that libel law endangers free speech. Guldberg is currently being sued for libel by multi-million pound news broadcaster ITN.

'Regardless of the final verdict, the extraordinary length and cost of the 25 month McLibel trial serves as a warning to individuals, campaigns and media professionals that there is no such thing as free speech in Britain.

Libel law stifles the ability of us all to criticise and hold to account the huge public bodies that affect our lives. It is not just actual writs but the threat of writs that suppresses public debate.

The right of powerful organisations to sue for libel makes a mockery of free speech and the freedom of the press. The likes of McDonalds and ITN have unlimited resources with which to influence public opinion and put their case across. They use libel writs to gag criticism.

As a publisher with direct experience of the high cost of challenging in print a powerful company, I support wholeheartedly Helen Steel and Dave Morris’ proposal for a reform of British libel law to include a public interest defence. This would make it impossible for the McLibel case or the ITN action to ever happen again.'

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