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Liverpool John Moores university has dropped its libel case against Conservative MP Robert Halfon, who had criticised the university’s alleged commercial links with the regime of Colonel Gadaffi.
The university had objected to materials posted on Mr Halfon’s blog and on YouTube. Mr Halfon had initially removed the comments and videos from the web when contacted by the university. However, the John Moores’ continued with its demands, requesting that Halfon apologise and pay a “donation” to the university.
Halfon is a vocal critic of UK connections to the Libyan dictator. Elected as Conservative MP for Harlow in the 2010 election, he is descended from a Libyan Jewish grandfather who was forced to flee the country after Gadaffi took power in 1969.
Robert Halfon commented: “I’m pleased that LJMU has withdrawn their libel threat against me. I am a firm believer in freedom of speech and people must have the right to express views even if they are unpalatable to some. I remain of the view that universities in general must be very careful as to which regimes they take their money from. I hope that universities who have had dealings with Libya and similar autocracies in the Middle East will think again before signing contracts or taking money.”
David Allen Green of Preiskel & Co, who was instructed by Mr Halfon, said the university’s action was “illiberal, confused, and misconceived” .
Michael Harris of the Libel Reform Campaign: “It is not acceptable that because of the inadequacies of English libel law, an MP can face libel action for raising legitimate concerns that a UK university may be dealing with a foreign dictatorship.”
(NOTE: Index on Censorship will be commencing a paid internship scheme in association with Liverpool John Moores University Journalism Department in Autumn 2011)