Index on Censorship and Reporters Without Borders welcome High Court’s decision in Realtid case

Reporters without Borders and Index on Censorship welcome the High Court’s decision to throw out large parts of the libel case against the Swedish business and finance publication Realtid, its editor-in-chief, and two of its investigative journalists. 

The High Court’s decision comes fifteen months after a jurisdiction hearing aimed at deciding whether England and Wales is the appropriate jurisdiction for the defamation case to be heard. On 11 May 2022, the judge ruled that the courts of England and Wales do not have jurisdiction over ten of the thirteen defamation claims. One of the claimants, Eco Energy World (EEW) has been precluded from bringing its claim over five different articles on the basis that it has not shown it suffered serious financial loss stemming from Realtid’s publications. The second claimant, EEW’s founder Svante Kumlin, may proceed with the case as an individual on only three of the eight articles he sued over, but these actions have been restricted to claiming for any harm he suffered in England and Wales.

Jessica Ní Mhainín, policy and campaigns manager for Index on Censorship, said: “While we welcome the High Court’s decision, we remain concerned that Realtid may nonetheless have to continue defending themselves in London’s courts. This case one again underlines the urgent need for the UK to adopt anti-SLAPP legislation, particularly a filter mechanism capable of rooting out SLAPPs at the earliest possible stage of proceedings”. 

Erik Halkjaer, president of Reporters Without Borders Sweden said: “The fact that Swedish reporters in Sweden, which currently ranks third out of 180 countries on the RSF World Press Freedom Index, with its own set of solid media laws and regulations concerning publications, needs to take into account that they can be sued in another countries courts is a threat not only against the journalists, but the Swedish media laws. The Swedish government should find ways of blocking these kinds of SLAPP cases against Swedish journalists”.

Realtid’s editor-in-chief Camilla Jonsson said: We are glad that the court listened to our arguments about the company’s claims being unfounded and therefore not suited for a trial in London. We also note that five of the eight articles in the case have been ruled as not being libelous even before we have filed our full defence on this. However we feel it is problematic that a Swedish magazine and Swedish journalists still might have to continue defending ourselves in a British court. But we are confident that our reporting will prove to be factually substantiated and in the public interest which in the end will lead to a successful outcome of the case”.

For press inquiries contact: 

Erik Halkjaer, [email protected]

Jessica Ní Mhainín, [email protected] 

Libel tourism: Blogger sued in the UK by Tanzanian media tycoon wins case

A blogger sued for libel by a Tanzanian media tycoon won her case today (30 November). At the High Court in London, Mr Justice Bean ruled in favour of  Sarah Hermitage, who used her Silverdale Farm blog to criticise Reginald Mengi, Executive Chairman of IPP Ltd — a company with significant media interests in Tanzania.

Hermitage and her husband Stuart Middleton were driven from Silverdale Farm in Tanzania by threats and harassment. The court heard Megni’s brother Benjamin took possession of the farm following their departure. A defining factor in the ruling was the hostile coverage of Silverdale Farm by the IPP-owned newspapers. Mengi was ordered to pay £1.2million towards Hermitage’s legal costs.

Hermitage said today:

I set up my Silverdale Farm blog in 2009 to document our horrific experience in Tanzania, and to expose as a warning for others the corruption we encountered and our helplessness with no protection from the local Courts and officials.

To find myself then sued for libel in my own country, facing a claim of legal costs of £300,000 from Mr Mengi before the proceedings had even started, was itself frightening and oppressive.