Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Salman Rushdie's settlement with other authors again advertises London as "the Libel Capital of the World"


I wrote about Britain’s (or London’s) capacity to attract “libel tourism” on Oct. 11, 2007 on this blog with the case of a Saudi sheik who brought suit about a book published elsewhere. (Check the Blogger archives.) Today, there’s another case that sounds related, although one has to say it originated in London. Famous author Salman Rushdie accepted a retraction and apology and revision of a book “On Her Majesty’s Service” (don't mix this up with the James Bond novel) with destruction of existing copies (in lieu of money) in London, regarding apparently untrue statements made about him by the authors. The author was Ronald Evans (and ghostwriter Douglas Thompson) and apparently there were allegations or implications about how Rushie and others treated his guards.

Rushdie is controversial because he lived for a long term under guard after Islamic extremist threats made against him for his 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses”, supposedly “blasphemous.” This sort of thing has sometimes been a problem in Britain and in Europe, but had not happened in the United States. However, on Aug. 6 on this blog, I reported a story about Random House’s cancellation of a novel ("The Jewel of Medina") about the wife of the prophet Mohammed by Sherry Jones, out of “security fears” although there are more details to the story that have emerged recently (see that entry).

The story about Rushdie appeared Aug. 27 on p A10 of The Washington Post, “Rushie Shoots Down Book’s False Claims: Innovative Libel Settlement Grants Author Public Apology,” by Post foreign service writer Mary Jordan, link here.

Rushdie’s lawyer Mark Stephens said “London it the libel capital of the world. “People jet in from all over the world to launder their reputations” in Britain because of the way British libel laws work and don’t easily accept truth as an absolute defense to libel. Kitty Kelly told the media this in the fall of 1997 after her book “The Royals” stirred up controversy after Princess Diana’s tragic auto crash death in a Paris tunnel on August 31, 1997. Stephens also said that to lose a libel case in London “you have to be a moron in a hurry.” Maybe Michael Fertik (“Reputation Defender”) should open an office in London!

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