Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger says his newspaper only resisted “bloodcurdling” threats over its WikiLeaks coverage because of its partnership with the New York Times.
Draconian libel laws in the UK would have prevented the newspaper from publishing the leaked stories exclusively, but it benefited from more liberal press freedom laws in the US.
Calling for more legal protection for investigative journalism, he said: “We weren’t sued over Wikileaks. But, over a period of months, I was given some blood curdling learned opinions on what might happen to the Guardian – and me personally – if we persisted in our intended course of publishing. The reason we decided to partner with the New York Times was a simple one.
“We suspected that, if we went it alone under the framework of laws governing newspapers in this country, we simply wouldn’t be allowed to get away with it. We would be sued or injuncted or prosecuted, or all three. It seemed a good idea to harness the whole exercise to a country with extremely robust media laws rather than risk it all on the quick sands of the British legal system.”
Rusbridger said the draft Defamation Bill currently going through parliament had promising provisions on responsible journalism, single online publication, honest opinion, the ‘substantial harm test’ (stopping smaller libels from proceeding) and on libel tourism. But he it still didn’t do enough to prevent the high costs of defending libel allegations, he said, especially against huge corporations.
(Source: Press Gazette)