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".

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