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Free Speech Appeal

LM magazine is being sued for libel by ITN, in a case which threatens to bankrupt the magazine and also raises wider issues about the use of the libel law to censor criticism. As the publishers of LM, we have launched an Appeal in Defence of Free Speech. It has already won support from many prominent writers, journalists, academics and other respected individuals.

This is only the start; we will be building more support for the appeal until the case is won.

Helene Guldberg & Claire Fox

In defence of free speech

We, the undersigned, believe that all open and democratic societies should acknowledge the public's right to read critical and dissenting views. Without this right, the sphere of public debate and expression is dangerously narrowed. No public figure or organisation should be exempt. Nothing should be above criticism.

In February 1997 LM magazine published an article criticising ITN's award-winning footage from Trnopolje camp in Bosnia. Throughout Europe and in the United States the debate has become a matter of public interest and has been discussed widely in the media. In the UK, by contrast, the debate has been stifled because ITN issued a libel writ against the editor and publishers of LM magazine.

We encourage others to join us in condemning ITN's decision to act in this manner as a deplorable attack on press freedom. We reject the threat of costly libel action and call on ITN to defend its position through free and open public debate.

ITN has displayed contempt for the public's right to decide the relative merits of two sides of an important argument. We call on all those who value their freedom to join us in demanding the right to make up our own minds.

Signatories so far include:

  • Margaret Drabble
  • Doris Lessing
  • Dr Lisa Appignanesi
    'Libel actions - outdated laws - should not be used to stifle free speech. How can one arm of journalism behave in such a way to another that it jeopardises the very freedom of the profession. My support is all with LM'
  • AN Wilson
  • Matthew Parris
  • Patrick Hughes
  • Steven Alan Green
  • Phillip Knightley
    'A case of historical importance. A win for ITN will be a blow to free speech'
  • Richard Hoggart
  • Colm Toibin
  • Jake Lynch
  • Michael Holroyd
  • Fay Weldon
    'Journalists who specialise in criticism, should not see themselves above criticism. The "offending article" is responsible, well considered, and makes points ITN would do better to consider than to try to censor'
  • Chris Tame
  • Professor Johan Galtung
  • Angela Lambert
    'As a former reporter for ITN (1973-7) I deplore their bullying tactics in bringing a libel action against LM'
  • Auberon Waugh
  • Professor Jim Haynes
  • Dr David Starkey
  • Christopher Dunkley
  • Francis King CBE
    '"Sue not that ye be not sued" is a rule that anyone working in the media ought to follow. That ITN is suing Living Marxism is the equivalent of an elephant attempting to trample a fly because it has had the impertinence to alight on its trunk'
  • Paul Theroux
  • Viv Groskop
  • Nicholas Spice
  • Tim Gopsill
  • Ursula Owen
  • Blake Morrison
    'I hate the idea of a powerful and affluent organisation trying to destroy a small independent-minded magazine. The issues raised by LM are important ones, and deserve to be heard'
  • Donu Kogbara
  • Gill Barnes
  • Professor Wilhelm Kempf
  • Jenny Diski
    'It's absurd that journalists in ITN should be trying to suppress other journalists who are doing exactly what they are supposed to do'
  • John Berger
  • Nikos Papa Stergiadis
  • Geraldine James
  • William Boyd
    'Journalists - of all people - should never use the libel laws to attack each other. If you've nothing to hide then debate, argue, challenge, refute and the truth will out. Shame on ITN'
  • Laetitia Sadier

Support the LM libel appeal, the OFF THE FENCE FUND.
Send donations to BM Off the Fence, London WC1N 3XX
Make cheques payable to: Off The Fence Fund
Reproduced from LM issue 108, March 1998

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