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Friday, February 12, 2010

How 'lawfare' is used to silence critics of Islam

Writing in London's Guardian, Alan Dershowitz and Elizabeth Samson describe several cases of libel lawsuits being used as 'lawfare' to silence critics of Islam. Here's one example.
In 2005, the Islamic Society of Boston sued the Boston Herald and nearly a dozen others for defamation. The ISB was building New England's largest Islamic centre and the defendants were raising legitimate questions about the ISB's connections to terrorist financing and hate speech. Though the ISB dropped the lawsuit – just weeks before some of their leaders were to give sworn testimony – the defendants incurred close to $2m in legal

The ISB lawsuit had even more damaging consequences. Howie Carr, a columnist for the Boston Herald, said he "know[s] the ISB lawsuit has had a chilling effect on journalists in Boston". An analysis of the articles printed in the Herald from summer 2003 to winter 2007 supports Carr's statement. Between summer 2003 and winter 2005, the Herald published 19 articles mentioning the ISB's alleged connection with radical Islamic groups. After the lawsuit began in 2005 until winter 2007, the paper whitewashed its reporting and no longer mentioned radicalism in the 20 articles that covered the ISB's activities during that period.

Before 2001, there were five documented defamation cases relating to radical Islamic groups. After 2001, that number rose sharply. Though roughly 20 cases have been identified, the extent of the problem is difficult to determine since these cases are typically settled out of court. Often, the plaintiffs have substantial resources and the defendants cannot afford the legal costs.

A 2004 survey by the American Society of Journalists and Authors found that about 70% of freelance writers earn less than $50,000 annually. It is not surprising then that some would silence themselves, calculating that the personal cost of a lawsuit outweighs the need to inform the public. It is also impossible to know how many threats of a lawsuit have led to self-censorship or inappropriate retractions by writers who fear that their writing, while protected as free speech, will land them in court.


At 2:50 AM, Blogger trencherbone said...

More on lawfare http://crombouke.blogspot.com/2010/01/muslim-litigation-jihad-and-lawfare.html


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