Leahy Plans Hearing To Examine Libel Tourism

WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced Tuesday that the Committee will hold a hearing on Feb. 23, to examine libel tourism, a growing threat to American journalists’ First Amendment rights.  The hearing is entitled “Are Foreign Libel Lawsuits Chilling Americans’ First Amendment Rights?

Permissive libel laws in other countries have resulted in foreign law suits against American journalists, publishers and authors.  A widely-publicized case in Britain in which an American author, Rachel Ehrenfeld, was sued in British courts by a Saudi businessman led the United Nations Committee on Human Rights to warn that British libel laws have “served to discourage critical media reporting on matters of serious public interest, adversely affecting the ability of scholars and journalists to publish their work, including through the phenomenon known as libel tourism.”  Neither party in the Ehrenfeld case resides in England, and the work cited in the case was neither published nor marketed in Britain.  Similar cases have been filed against American journalists in Britain and other countries around the world.

Testifying at the hearing will be Kurt Wimmer, a partner at Covington and Burling in Washington, D.C., where he specializes in representing digital media, television, and publication companies.  Wimmer is the former general counsel for the Gannett Company.  Bruce Brown, a partner at Baker Hostetler in Washington, D.C., will also testify.  Brown specializes in libel, copyright and newsgathering law.

The hearing will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 23, at 10:00 a.m., in room 226 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.  The hearing will be webcast live, and witness testimony and member statements will be available online.

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February 16, 2010


The Senate Committee on the Judiciary has scheduled a hearing entitled “Are Foreign Libel Lawsuits Chilling Americans’ First Amendment Rights?” for Tuesday, February 23, 2010, at 10:00 a.m. in Room 226 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

By order of the Chairman.

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