UK: Nature wins three-year libel battle

Scientific journal Nature won a libel claim today that has lasted three years. Egyptian scientist Mohamed El Naschie had argued the journal had defamed him in a November 2008 story, which alleged he used his editorial privilege to self-publish numerous papers he had written and which would not have been published elsewhere due to poor quality and lack of peer review. At the High Court today Mrs Justice Sharp rejected El Naschie’s claim, accepting the defendants’ defences of justification, honest comment and the Reynolds privilege for responsible journalism on a matter of public interest.

Author of discredited vaccine-autism report sues for libel

The author of a discredited report linking autism to the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine has filed a defamation suit against the British Medical Journal. Andrew Wakefield launched his libel case against three defendants in the United States last week. The gastroenterologist is suing investigative journalist Brian Deer for a BMJ article which analysed his data and accused him of fraud; BMJ editor Fiona Godlee who supported the accusation in an editorial, and the BMJ as a whole. Wakefield claims that the journal acted with malice and suggests a conflict of interest because the BMJ receives money from vaccine makers GlaxoSmithKline and Merck.


US: Govermnent asks scientific journals to censor bird flu studies

The US Government has asked two scientific journals to censor data on bird flu. Nature and Science were asked by the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity to publish redacted versions of studies by two research groups that suggests the H5N1 avian flu could spread quickly among humans. The laboratory-made version of bird flu covered in the data could easily jump between ferrets — a sign a mutated form of the virus could spread among humans. The journals are objecting to the request, saying it would restrict access to information that might advance the cause of public health.

Read more about censorship and science in “Dark Matter,” the latest issue of Index on Censorship magazine. You can also read the entire issue for free (until 22 December) on our Facebook page

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