Home > Censorship, Government, Protest, Surveillance > UK Press regulation deal sparks fears of high libel fines for bloggers.

UK Press regulation deal sparks fears of high libel fines for bloggers.

By   19th March 2013.    Find Full Article Here:-

Websites could have to pay exemplary damages if they don’t sign up to new regulator, claim opponents of Leveson deal.

Carla Buzasi

Carla Buzasi of the Huffington Post: ‘Someone said this is a carrot and stick approach. There doesn’t seem to be too much of a carrot.’ Photograph: Finbarr O’Reilly/Reuters

Bloggers could face high fines for libel under the new Leveson deal with exemplary damages imposed if they don’t sign up to the new regulator, it was claimed on Tuesday.

Under clause 29 introduced to the crime and courts bill in the Commons on Monday night, the definition of “relevant” bloggers or websites includes any that generate news material where there is an editorial structure giving someone control over publication.

Bloggers would not be at risk of exemplary damages for comments posted by readers. There is also a schedule that excludes certain publishers such as scientific journals, student publications and not-for-profit community newspapers. Websites are guaranteed exclusion from exemplary damages if they can get on this list.

Kirsty Hughes, the chief executive of Index on Censorship, which campaigns for press freedom around the world, said it was a “sad day” for British democracy. “This will undoubtedly have a chilling effect on everyday people’s web use,” she said.

She said she feared thousands of websites could fall under the definition of a “relevant publisher” in clause 29.

Hughes said: “Bloggers could find themselves subject to exemplary damages, due to the fact that they were not part of a regulator that was not intended for them in the first place.”

Exemplary damages and costs imposed by a court to penalise those who remained outside the regulator could run to hundreds of thousands of pounds, enough to close down smaller publishers.

Harry Cole, who works for the Guido Fawkes political blog, said it would not be joining the regulator and believes that because its servers are based in the US it will be excluded from the exemplary damages clauses.

“I don’t see I should join a regulator. This country has had a free press for the last 300 years, that has been irreverent and rude as my website is and holding public officials to account. We as a matter of principle will be opposing any regulator especially one set up and accountable to politicians we write about every day,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Carla Buzasi, the editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post website, told the BBC: “I can’t imagine any politician has had this discussion because they have rushed this through so quickly.

“It does worry me to a certain extent. Someone said this is a carrot and stick approach. There doesn’t seem to be too much of a carrot here.”

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