Full case report

Sheikha Mouza al Misnad v Azzaman Ltd & Others

Reference [2003] EWHC 1783 (QB)
Court Queen's Bench Division

Judge Gray J

Date of Judgment 21 Jul 2003


Summary

Defamation – Libel – Summary disposal – CPR Part 24 – s.8 Defamation Act 1996 – Conflict of laws – Publication in multiple foreign jurisdictions – Reynolds privilege – Standards of responsible journalism


Facts

The Claimant, the wife of the Emir of Qatar, sought summary judgment under s.8 Defamation Act 1996 and/or CPR Part 24 in her libel claim against the publishers of Azzaman, a daily Arabic newspaper banned in Qatar, but published in the UK and distributed to numerous other countries. The Claimant relied on a presumption that the laws of these other countries was the same as in England & Wales. The Defendants relied on a Reynolds defence and fair comment. Although they had had not taken steps to verify the information they claimed to have received from Qatari opposition sources, and had not sought a comment from S, the Defendants nevertheless submitted that this was not a departure from the standards of responsible journalism that could be achieved in the Middle East, especially when the newspaper was banned in Qatar.


Issue

(1) Whether “responsible journalism” fell to be judged by the standards applicable in a foreign country or by British standards;

(2) Whether the Claimant should be granted summary judgment


Held

Refusing summary judgment:

When assessing the responsibility shown by journalists and publishers under a Reynolds defence it might be relevant to consider what was possible for a journalist to do in a particular country. As such, and in view of the conflict of evidence (including expert evidence) between the parties, the case was not suitable for summary determination. In particular, Part 24 was not suitable where Article 10 rights were engaged and where a Claimant was seeking (as here) injunctive relief extending over many countries.


Comment

The facts of the case are unusual, but the decision suggests that the balancing process under a Reynolds defence envisaged by the House of Lords includes a recognition of what Lord Nicholls termed “local conditions” ([2001] 2 AC 127, 201h). Eady J made similar allowances in Lukowiak v Unidad Editorial SA [2001] EMLR 1043 when assessing a Reynolds defence. Separately, the Judge expressed reluctance to grant summary judgment on the basis of the presumption that English Law was the same as various Middle East countries (see University of Glasgow v The Economist [1997] EMLR 495).


Instructing Solicitors

Simmons & Simmons for the Claimant; Olswang for the Defendants