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Withers' UK media and reputation team wins pro bono freedom of expression victory for clients

19 September 2023 | Applicable law: England and Wales | 1 minute read

In a victory for freedom of expression Jo Sanders and Chloe Flascher of Withers' UK media and reputation team have resolved a dispute with a multi-national publisher of an academic paper co-authored by two leading academic professors - ultimately securing its ongoing publication. Jo and Chloe acted pro bono on behalf of their clients.1

The publisher had threatened to remove the academic paper co-authored by our clients from publication entirely. This decision appeared to be as a result of the publisher fearing pressure and legal risk from social media users, in an environment where academic freedom-related controversies have been heightened and individuals exercising their academic freedom have faced no-platforming campaigns against them by individuals or groups who oppose their freedom of expression, leading institutions to have become much more cautious, or actively blocked publications and speaking opportunities. We felt that the position taken by the publisher overlooked legal defences available, including the special protection for opinion. As a result of Withers' assistance, the ongoing publication of the article was secured in entirely unamended form.

The successful outcome for our clients is one which also emphasises the ongoing significance of academic freedom as a right protected under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.2

Our clients were concerned that if the fear of libel complaints had resulted in the publisher removing and/or amending the publication, this would have had the effect of stifling their academic freedom. This case shows the importance to the parties of having a good understanding of their legal position, especially the numerous defences to defamation to protect public interest speech and individual views and opinions.

1 - Withers has been able to assist pro bono in this matter as it concerned the provision of legal assistance to individuals seeking to secure and protect civil rights, civil liberties, and public rights.
2 - Sorguç v Turkey, no.17089/03, § 35, 23 June 2009

This document (and any information accessed through links in this document) is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this document.


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