"In an ideal world there should be no threats of legal action against fellow bloggers who provide fair comment on a matter of public interest even if one doesn't like what that person says", opines Marcus of the webblog Harry's Place.
I totally agree.
But what would you do if someone posts defamatory and malicious claims on his blog about you- in a clear attempt to jeopardise your career as a journalist- and then repeatedly refuses to remove them?
Contrary to what Oliver Kamm implies, I am first and foremost a journalist, not a blogger (I derive no income from blogging), and Kamm's highly libellous comments- that I was book reviewer who didn't read books and that I deliberately misrepresented my sources- were a deliberate attempt to lower my standing in my profession.
I did not take the decision to sue Kamm, a hedge-fund manager likely to have the financial wherewithal to engage top legal representation lightly, but when emails were being sent to editors who commission me (see an example below), repeating Kamm's defamatory allegations and cced to Kamm himself, I think most fair-minded people would agree that I had no option but to take some form of action. I must add, this was the first occasion in my life I had ever taken anybody else to court.
I went to the courts not to silence Kamm's right to make fair comments on articles with which he disagreed, but to prevent Kamm and his neo-con, pro-war associates from silencing me. Their aim was - and still is- to get editors, like Robbie Millen and Daniel Finkelstein of The Times, Tom Switzer of the Australian, Seumas Milne of the Guardian, and Sam Leith of the Books section of the Daily Telegraph to stop publishing my work. It worked in respect of The Times, which hasn't commissioned me since Kamm's defamatory comments were published (conveniently providing more opportunites for freelance work for Kamm and his associate Stephen Pollard), but their smear campaign has not worked elsewhere, which is why they are continuing their vendetta.
From: George Courtenay [mailto:email@example.com] Sent: Monday, February 20, 2006 1:33 PM
Cc: Neil Clark; firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Neil Clark sources
I see you have published an opinion article by Neil Clark today. That's all good to print a range of views but you may be interested that Oliver Kamm of the London Times has been investigating Mr. Clark's use of sources.
Mr.Clark doesn't say the same thing in his new article but as he's lied to other editors I'm bringing it to your attention.
UPDATE: Within hours of Kamm's allegations being posted on his blog yesterday, the editor of the Australian newspaper received another such email, linking to Kamm's piece. I'll leave readers to draw their own conclusions as to such a remarkable coincidence.