King Urges Protection for U.S. Authors in "Libel Tourism" Hearing
February 12, 2009
A House committee held an important hearing Thursday morning on the issue of "libel tourism." That's the practice of bringing libel suits against American authors in other nations, particularly the United Kingdom, where First Amendment protections do not apply and where the burden of proof is placed on the defendant rather than on the plaintiff.
Saudi Arabian businessman Khalid bin Mahfouz has brought several such lawsuits, winning a default judgment against American researcher Rachel Ehrenfeld for her book Funding Evil: How Terrorism Is Financed and How to Stop It, and forcing a Cambridge University Press to destroy copies of the book Alms for Jihad.
Both works linked bin Mahfouz to financing terrorism.
U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) submitted written testimony for the hearing, advocating legislation he has introduced to bar foreign libel judgments from being enforced in the U.S. without first meeting constitutional protections and established case law. King has been outspoken in fighting against any censorship caused by threats of radical Islamists.
"The danger is that foreign individuals are operating a scheme to intimidate authors and publishers from even exercising" the First Amendment right to free speech, said King, the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Homeland Security. It becomes an urgent matter because the subjects often deal with terrorism and national security.
"I receive regular classified briefings on dangerous plots to attack the United States, so I know just how grave these threats are. We cannot allow foreigners the ability to muzzle Americans for speaking the truth about these dangers," King said.
Thursday's hearing was supported by Society of Professional Journalists.
Read Congressman King's testimony here.