In an editor’s note, the newspaper explained that the block came as a result of a lawsuit filed in the UK by RosUkrEnergo co-owner Dmytro Firtash against the Kyiv Post’s July 2 article “Gas trade leaves trail of lawsuits, corruption.”
The UK has long been known as a “libel tourism” destination: because UK libel laws are plaintiff-friendly, some file lawsuits in Britain hoping for a favorable ruling.
RosUkrEnergo is an “intermediary that handled the gas deals between Russia and the Ukraine”
In a separate statement, the Kyiv Post explained the decision.
“The Kyiv Post, effective Dec. 14, 2010, is blocking access to all web traffic originating from the United Kingdom in protest of the draconian libel laws there that hinder legitimate free speech and threaten the work of independent journalists, authors, scientists and others worldwide. In a phenomenon known as ‘libel tourism,’” rich and powerful plaintiffs file lawsuits in London – “the libel capital of the world” – to exploit laws stacked in their favor, stifling journalism and threatening news organizations and others with costly lawsuits.
The Kyiv Post directed any further questions to either the newspaper’s letters section or Britain’s Libel Reform Campaign.
Just last week, Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, called Britain’s libel laws “an international embarrassment” and “a farce,” the Associated Press reported.
Clegg reportedly stated that “a new draft defamation law would be produced in the next few months.” The law is set to “introduce a new defense of speaking in the public interest, and clarify the existing libel defenses to stop claimants suing ‘on what are essentially trivial grounds.'”
Clegg also explained the new law would include “more protection to people who write on the Internet.”
In August, U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law the SPEECH Act, which protects people in the U.S. from foreign libel judgments if the ruling wouldn’t be upheld in the United States.
StinkyJournalism wrote in December when UK’s Supreme Court updated its fair comment libel defense to honest comment, a move that was explained as useful given the age of live tweeting.
iMediaEthics is writing to the Kyiv Post and will update with any response.
UPDATE: 1/11/2011 9:49 AM EST: Brian Bonner of the Kyiv Post responded to iMediaEthics e-mail inquiry. We asked how much of the newspaper’s traffic was from the UK.
“I think UK traffic before the ban amounted to about 5 percent of our overall traffic.”