Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A very tawdry affair

"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 [] Sent: Monday, February 20, 2006 1:33 PM
Cc: Neil Clark;

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.
G. Courtenay

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.


Ken said...

Jesus, Neil, this is frightening. OK, someone is out to stop you writing, that much is clear. Do you have any idea who the writer of this email is?

Listen, I've posted an appeal for folk to support you over at my place. Other than that there is nothing more that I can do.

You are in my thoughts.

Neil Clark said...

Many thanks, The Exile. Much appreciated.
I have been doing some research on them mysterious Mr George Courtenay and it's rather interesting. Have a look at my latest post.

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Neil Clark said...

You're being rather unfair Gojira.
Any comments that have 'vanished in to the ether' have done so either because they were:
(a) defamatory)
(b) mere personal abuse of the you f... variety.

I introduced comment moderation on this blog with great reluctance, and only after supporters of Oliver Kamm were consistently posting defamatory comments.

You say 'Clark-approved comments can take hours to appear'- that's because, surprise, surprise, I do not spend every waking hour in front of my computer.

I welcome criticism of my posts (something you do 99% of the time you write in) and have no intention of preventing views I don't particularly like getting a hearing.