The Government has today published the Draft Media Bill, which includes the repeal of section 40.
Section 40 repeal will be welcomed by the corrupt and the powerful, who would have feared the impact of the provision on their ability to intimidate independent publishers with expensive legal actions.
Over 200 news outlets are independently regulated and would stand to benefit from costs protection under the provision, but are now set to be deprived of this crucial protection.
IMA Chairperson Tchiyiwe Chihana has written to the Government, calling for an urgent meeting to discuss this decision.
IMA letter to the Secretary of State
Dear Secretary of State,
We are writing on behalf of the Independent Media Association, a representative body for independent news publishers.
We were deeply concerned to read that the Draft Media Bill includes plans to fully repeal section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013.
We would like to confirm, for the record, that we have not been consulted on this decision.
Section 40 would protect news publishers by, except in exceptional circumstances, directing the Courts to make claimants liable for their own costs in actions brought against news publishers, regardless of the outcome of the case.
This would end the risk of wealthy litigants bringing meritless cases to chill investigative reporting, otherwise known as “SLAPPs”. n doing so, it promised to be a powerful defence for press freedom.
The criteria which publishers must meet to benefit from this protection is membership of an independent regulator. Independent regulation is manifestly in the interests of the public and readers.
We would be grateful if you would agree to meet with us, so that we can understand your reasons for undermining press freedom in this way, and so that we can explain the very real risks of legal “chilling” which our members face.
Chairperson, Independent Media Association