Guardian’s Cadwalladr in court to fight Brexit Banks backer libel claim | Brexit


the Observer and Guardian Journalist Carole Cadwalladr will appear in court in London next Friday to defend herself against a defamation charge brought by Arron Banks, the multimillionaire businessman and staunch supporter of Brexit. The case concerns a remark made during a talk at the Ted Tech Conference by Cadwalladr in April 2019, and a related tweet.

In the widely circulated 15-minute speech on Facebook’s pernicious effects on the Democratic electoral process, Cadwalladr spoke about the 2016 Brexit referendum and briefly noted that Nigel Farage’s Leave.EU campaign, largely funded by 8 million dollars Banks’ pound sterling, the largest donation in British political history, had been found by the Election Commission for breaking election and data laws.

In two sentences, Cadwalladr also noted the commission’s investigation into Banks’ source of funding and made a passing reference to the financier “telling lies” about what she called “his secret relationship with the Russian government. “. A few months later, after Banks complained about the reference to Ted’s speech, she tweeted another reference to Banks “lying” about his contacts with the Russian government.

Banks, who was later cleared of any donation-related incrimination, after a National Crime Agency investigation, and who has always firmly denied any illegal ties to Russia – though he admits meeting with representatives of the Russian Embassy on several occasions – continued the case against Cadwalladr for more than two years.

In a preliminary ruling in November 2019 on the meaning of Cadwalladr’s words in the speech and tweet, Judge Saini concluded that an average listener would have understood that: “On more than one occasion, Mr. Russian government with regard to concerns the acceptance of foreign financing of electoral campaigns in violation of the law on such financing.

Banks, in his lawsuit, says this meaning is defamatory of him. Cadwalladr said that was not the direction she wanted and that she was always careful to say that there was no evidence to suggest Banks had accepted the money.

Although she initially defended the claim on the basis of truth, limitation and public interest, the truth and limitation defenses were withdrawn after Judge Saini explained the meanings he found. in Ted’s speech and tweet. Cadwalladr is now defending the lawsuit against her on the grounds that her reporting was in the public interest.

Arron Banks, who funded most of the funding for Nigel Farage’s Leave.EU campaign, said Cadwalladr’s comments were libelous. Photograph: Leon Neal / AFP / Getty Images

Cadwalladr, who has won numerous awards for his investigative reporting on the effects of big data and social media on the Brexit campaign and the election of Donald Trump, reporting that directly led the US Federal Trade Commission to impose a Facebook’s record $ 5 billion fine, has spent much of the past two years trying to work with the Banks costume threat hanging over her. If Banks wins the case, Cadwalladr could be personally liable for his costs, estimated to be between £ 750,000 and £ 1million, as well as any damages resulting therefrom.

The case has been followed closely by several British investigative journalists, some of whom have had their own defamation litigation issues. Cadwalladr has also been supported by a number of press freedom groups, concerned about what they see as the potentially crippling effect of a wealthy, high-profile individual like Banks being able to sue Cadwalladr, a journalist in person. independent, but not suing the organization Ted, which provided the platform for his speech, and on whose website he can still be viewed.

When Banks first lodged a complaint against Cadwalladr, seven press freedom groups, including Reporters Without Borders and Index On Censorship, called for the case to be dismissed and for the UK government to stand up for UK journalism. public interest. Their open letter described the case as bearing many of the hallmarks of a so-called Slapp trial – strategic public participation lawsuits – in which legal action will inevitably be expensive and time consuming for journalists to resist.

Paul Webster, Editor-in-Chief of Observer, said: “Carole’s courageous reporting gave the audience an in-depth look at the secret ways in which powerful people, organizations and social media companies have sought to influence our democracies and the hidden role that technology plays in the use of our data and the development of our policy.

“We will continue to support the rights of journalists like Carole to cover independently and in the public interest.”


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