In the Media

Report of feud within the BNP justified

PUBLISHED June 5, 2006

The "Reynolds defence" in theory, should allow the media to print allegations that are in the public interest, irrespective of whether their truth can be ascertained - so long as certain important tests are applied.

In practice - such as in the case of the Daily Telegraph against George Galloway - media organisations have failed to meet the rigorous tests. So a recent court ruling that upheld the Reynolds defence in a reportage context is worthy of note. The case (Roberts & Roberts v Gable & Searchlight, May 12 2006) concerned a feud between rival factions within the British National Party. Applying the analysis of the court of appeal in the Al-fagih case (2002) and strengthening the doctrine of neutral reportage in English law, particularly in a political context, Mr Justice Eady upheld the defence of qualified privilege, finding that "there is a duty (social or moral) upon political commentators generally, to cover the goings on in political parties, including disputes, fully and impartially. There is a corresponding legitimate interest in the public, and especially those who have a vote, to have such information available".