201704.11

Libelled on the Internet? You Don’t Have to Put Up With It!

Reputations are easily harmed by libellous allegations made on the Internet but, with the benefit of specialist legal advice, victims are far from powerless. In one case, the chief executive of a respected Islamic television channel won complete vindication and £140,000 in damages after he was unjustifiably branded a terrorist.

The offending article had appeared on a much-visited website for well over a year and had caused the man enormous distress and embarrassment. He had proved conclusively that the allegation that he was a convicted terrorist was untrue and the company that ran the website had ultimately not challenged his innocence.

The High Court noted that there could hardly be a more serious libel than to state that someone is a terrorist, an allegation that almost always imputes a willingness to take part in or encourage mass murder. The allegation would have been taken seriously by a substantial number of readers and the gravity of the libel was worsened by the persistence of its publication. The company’s resistance to the claim had also been unnecessarily dismissive, aggressive and combative.

Judgment had been entered against the company and its director after they failed to comply with an order for payment of costs. However, the Court considered the case on its merits and noted that the damages award was proportionate and would leave no reasonable onlooker in doubt that the man was entitled to vindication.

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