Hosted by: American Enterprise Institute
John Stuart Mill said in On Liberty, "We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still." Yet, a new challenge has arisen to free speech in America: restrictive libel laws found in British courts are being used to intimidate and seek punitive action against U.S. authors. In May 2005, an English court ordered Rachel Ehrenfeld and her publisher to pay about $250,000 to a Saudi billionaire named Khalid bin Mahfouz and his sons in connection with the publication of Funding Evil, a book Ehrenfeld published in 2003 to draw attention to the financial connections between the Saudi government and wealthy Saudi individuals and terrorist networks. Although Ehrenfeld did not publish Funding Evil in the United Kingdom, twenty-three copies were sold in Britain through the internet. Using British libel laws and courts, Mahfouz managed to tamp down criticism and attention to terrorism funding, obtaining more than forty retractions and apologies.
Ehrenfeld's case led the New York state legislature to pass the Libel Tourism Protection Act; Illinois passed similar legislation, and California is considering a measure. All are similar to the Free Speech Protection Act, sponsored by Senators Arlen Specter (R-Penn.), Joseph Lieberman (I-D-Conn.), and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Representative Peter King (R-N.Y.), now pending before Congress.
What are the merits of these legislative measures? How has globalization and interconnections between different national legal systems affected free speech worldwide? AEI's Richard Perle will moderate a panel to discuss these and other questions.
Added by insideronline on March 17, 2009