Full case report

Islam Expo Ltd v The Spectator (1828) Ltd & Pollard

Reference [2010] EWHC 2011 (QB)
Court Queen's Bench Division

Judge Tugendhat J

Date of Judgment 30 Jul 2010


Summary

Defamation – Libel – Reference – Context – Hyperlinks – Whether, in context, words capable of referring to claimant in pleaded defamatory meaning


Facts

C was the organiser of the IslamExpo exhibitions in 2006 and 2008. D1 published on its website an article written by D2 which referred to the 2008 exhibition and the involvement of the think tank Demos in a debate and a seminar at the exhibition and stated that Demos had “worked with a clerical fascist party to organise a conference about its racist, genocidal theorcratic political programme” and had been “working with an organisation dedicated to genocide”. The article contained hyperlinks to four other websites.

C sued the Ds for libel, pleading that the article meant that C is “is a fascist party dedicated to genocide which organised IslamExpo, a conference with a racist and genocidal programme”. Ds pleaded justification to that meaning, alternatively a different meaning, and fair comment.

Shortly before witness statements were due to be exchanged, Ds applied for a ruling that the words complained of were not capable of referring to C in the pleaded meaning, when read with the hyperlinked material (as Ds contended the words should be read) or at all.


Issue

Whether the words complained of were capable of referring to the C in the pleaded meaning, when read with the hyperlinked material or at all.


Held

Dismissing the application:

Applying the principles set out in Jeynes v News Magazines Ltd & Anor, the words were capable of referring to the C in the pleaded meaning, whether read with the hyperlinked material or not. It was (inevitably) conceded by Ds that the words complained of were capable of being understood as ambigous; yet the hyperlinked material did not resolve that ambiguity.


Comment

The issue of whether or not, in determining the meaning of words complained of, material that may be accessed by readers clicking on hyperlinks within words complained of should be read as context has yet to be resolved. In this case the Judge held that he did not need to resolve the issue because the application failed whether or not the hyperlinked material was considered.


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Instructing Solicitors

Farooq Bajwa & Co for C; Reynolds Porter Chamberlain LLP for Ds