The New Statesman has removed a post from the blog of political editor Martin Bright after a threat of legal action from Iraqi billionaire Nadhmi Auchi.
The controversial businessman raised objections to links in the article to material hosted by Internet whistleblower site Wikileaks, as well as to statements made by Bright in his blog post.
As well as requesting the removal of the blog, Auchi’s solicitors Carter Ruck are demanding an apology in open court and damages.
The New Statesman has declined to comment, but Index on Censorship understands that negotiations are ongoing.
Wikileaks editor Julian Assange has now claimed that the New Statesman, in agreeing to Auchi’s terms, would defame him and Wikileaks by implying that the site’s content was inaccurate. In a letter to the New Statesman, Assange warned ‘Our organisation’s reputation for professional, accurate investigative journalism is our primary asset. As both the New Statesman and Wikileaks are globally read publications, we will consider taking action against the New Statesman in the most suitable jurisdiction or jurisdictions.’ Assange said the New Statesman should not be party to what he terms Auchi’s ‘mischief’, pointing out that Wikileaks had never been approached by Auchi or its lawyers about the material it hosted.
Much of the material hosted by Wikileaks dates back five years, including articles published by the Observer and Guardian newspapers. Auchi succeeded in forcing the Guardian and Observer to remove the articles from their sites in April of this year. UK law currently does not carry any limitation on the length of time between publication of material online and initiation of defamation proceedings.
Index On Censorship will be following this story.