Cadwalladr judgement a “hugely important victory” for press freedom, says Society of Editors

Posted on: June 13, 2022 by Claire Meadows

The Society of Editors has welcomed today’s High Court judgement that saw Brexit donor Arron Banks lose his libel case against Guardian and Observer journalist Carole Cadwalladr.

Describing this morning’s judgement as a “hugely important victory” for both Cadwalladr and press freedom, the Society said that the verdict also highlighted the vitally important role and challenges that journalists continue to face in holding the wealthy and powerful to account.

Banks had sued Cadwalladr personally over a Ted Talk and a Tweet in which she said the businessman had lied about his relationship with the Russian state. Delivering this morning’s judgement, Mrs Justice Steyn said that the tweet had not caused harm to Mr Banks’ reputation, while there were a public interest defence for her comments in the TED talk.

Dawn Alford, Executive Director of the Society of Editors said: “The Society of Editors welcomes today’s judgement which is a hugely important victory for both Carole Cadwalladr and press freedom more widely.  

“While today’s verdict is a welcome one, the case brought against Cadwalladr – an award-winning investigative reporter – highlights the ongoing challenges and threats faced by journalists in producing public interest journalism that seeks to hold the wealthy and powerful to account. The case brought against Cadwalladr targeted her personally and comes amid a number of recent cases in which powerful and wealthy individuals have sought to use their authority to silence journalists and deter public interest reporting and investigative journalism.

“The Society has responded in length to the government’s recent consultation on Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) and we have highlighted the urgent need for reform in this area. Journalists must be able to fulfil their vitally important role without fear of lengthy and costly litigation.”

Responding to today’s judgement Cadwalladr said that she was “profoundly grateful and relieved” to have won the case which for the past three years has been a “crushing, debilitating and all-consuming experience”.

She added: “The fact that his case was brought clearly shows how our libel laws favour the rich & powerful. I was only able to defend myself because of the incredibly generous support of the public. But this judgment is a huge victory for public interest journalism.

“Thank you to the judge, my stellar legal team & the 29,000 people who contributed to my legal defence fund. I literally couldn’t have done it without you.”

The judgement can be found in full here.

Photograph: Antonio Olmos/The Observer