If you’re reading this you’ve probably come across the notion of Section 40, but don’t quite understand the furor around it. Neither did I, until I did a bit of investigating.
Section 40 of the Crime and Court Act proposes that any newspaper who publishes a story about a person, company or brand and faces subsequent legal action from the target of the story will have to pay all the legal fees, even if they win the court battle.
So, say, The Guardian published a hypothetical story about Apple’s tax evasion. Apple take issue with this, claiming libel (essentially stating that it is untrue) and take the Guardian to court. Even if the Guardian’s story is discovered to be true and the court rules in favour and dismisses claims of Libel, the Guardian would still have the pay Apple’s legal fees.
You can see why this is dangerous. It will stop publications from investigating into people and companies through fear of court battles – why would a paper risk losing millions in legal fees, even if the story needed to be told? In fact, its not even a risk – they will invariably face legal action if this comes to fruition.
In a world of fake news and populist movements, perpetuated by the growing presence of ‘spin-doctors’, there’s never been more importance on factual and truthful journalism. This section threatens the future of journalism, and the future of truth.
The Rotheram child abuse scandal was uncovered through journalism – how many victims would still be harbouring such psychological traumas had Section 40 been in place and the Times not pursued such a story? How many crimes would go unaccounted for? Would there be justice?
I think George Orwell would be mortified. We all should be mortified.
The approval of this bill will further enable the elites of the world to hide their sordid dealings from the public; will further allow criminals to get away with illegal activities; will further allow horrible truths, like the Rotheram abuses, to remain hidden.
The U.K. is liberal, democratic and a center for free-speech. Section 40 would undermine the very principles that build the bedrock of our society.