Political Libels: A Comparative Study

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Bloomsbury Publishing, Jun 8, 2000 - Law - 224 pages
The political libel is as old as politics itself. The politician,seeking redress in the courts for an allegedly libellous publication, uses the English law of libel to attempt to remove the stain from his character. Wielding the 'sword of truth' he does battle with the media, often with huge attendant publicity, and at great risk to his reputation should he fail in his quest. At the same time he stands to pocket a substantial sum in damages if he can show the libel to have been committed.

In this, the first modern study of the phenomenon of political libels, the author delves behind the headlines and looks at the political and legal problems which surround this little understood but controversial area of English law. In this highly readable and engaging work the author surveys the ancient and modern history of the political libel laws, and argues that the English law of libel has in the main been too jealous of defending the reputations of politicians and insufficiently alert to the legitimate interest of the public. A strong case is made for reforming the law substantially, a case which rests both on the experience of other countries (notably the USA), and also on a re-examination of a handful of English cases dating from the mid-to-late nineteenth century whose significance has been downplayed by lawyers in subsequent years.

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1 Introduction
2 The Common Law and Political Libels in Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Britain
3 American Perspectives on Political Libels in the Early Democratic Era
4 The English Common Law in the Early Years of the Modern Democratic Era
5 Sullivan v The New York Times
6 The Sullivan Principle in English Law
7 English Law The First Phase of Reform
8 Sullivan v The New York Times in Australia
9 English Law The Second Phase of Reform?
10 Conclusion

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About the author (2000)

Ian Loveland is a Professor at City University, London.

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