European Parliament insists press freedom be protected from cross-border libel cases

European Commission10 May 2012. Today the European Parliament adopted a report by Cecilia Wikström, (Folkpartiet, Sweden) which aims to clarify which national laws apply in the case of a newspaper, television or radio station being sued for libel by someone in another country.

To date it has often been unclear which national law applies, that of the country where the person feels offended, or where the media are based.

In the current system, a Swedish newspaper can be sued in the UK for defamation of a foreign national for example. Although the Swedish publication may have minimal UK exposure, there is a risk that it would have to defend itself under British law.

“It is simply not reasonable that a newsroom is expected to know slander and tort law in 27 different European countries when they decide what they can or cannot publish. The current situation could lead to self-censorship of the media which is unacceptable”, says Wikström.

The European Parliament has adopted a report calling for a legislative proposal to modify the so-called Rome II Regulation as soon as possible. The Commission has promised to come back with a proposal in line with the Wikström report recommendations.

Wikström’s suggestion would have the effect that if someone wishes to sue a newspaper, radio or TV station in another country for libel, they must use the law in the country where the media has its main target audience, or if this is difficult to determine, where its editors are based.

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