Resolution on New Statesman and Society Defense

Adopted at 1993 Annual Conference

Whereas the British socialist journal New Statesman and Society, (NSS) presently celebrating its eightieth year of publication since its founding by G.B. Shaw and Sidney and Beatrice Webb and today one of the most internationally esteemed journals of Left opinion and analysis, has been sued for libel by Prime Minister John Major and Ms. Clare Latimer in an action whose settlement threatens the continued existence of the magazine and is an attack on freedom of information;

Whereas the offending article was a report in the January 29 issue on the widespread media rumor campaign concerning Mr. Major's association with a woman alleged to be his "mistress," a campaign which the NSS, by openly discussing the assorted allegations in some detail and "naming names," showed to be unfounded;

Whereas Major and Latimer pursued their campaign against NSS despite the fact that the article unambiguously states the rumors are unfounded and false, and despite the fact that the editors, through their solicitors, issued a letter of regret for any personal distress caused by the publication of the article and agreed to, if necessary, help vindicate Major's and Latimer's reputations;

Whereas the Prime Minister and Ms. Latimer, taking advantage of Britain's archaic libel laws, had the issue containing the article withdrawn from circulation and sued the printers, distributors and wholesalers of the magazine, who are indemnified against this kind of action by NSS, for over 150,000 pounds;

Whereas British libraries are also under apparent threat of legal action for the display of the January 29, 1993 issue, a threat under which many are acceding to censorship;

Whereas the attack on NSS is aimed at the radical press as a whole and is, while legal, an unconscionable assault on free access to information, opinion and argument;

Therefore Be It Resolved that the ALA condemn British Prime Minister John Major for pursuing a libel suit against the radical magazine New Statesman and Society, an effort which has constituted a serious attack on freedom of the press.

SRRT Newsletter Issue 109, p. 9