By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The Times rolls over

Is the New York Times Web site “published” in Britain? Times lawyers are concerned that the Brits will try to argue that, as the paper has decided to withhold from its online edition what is apparently a blockbuster story about the evidence against the bombing-plot suspects.

Under British law, news organizations are prohibited from publishing all kinds of things about criminal defendants lest the case against them be prejudiced. For Arthur Sulzberger Jr. to give in so quickly to the concern that the Times Web site would be covered by that law strikes me as overcautious in the extreme.

This is the paper whose top officials risked prison for publishing the Pentagon Papers, and who are at least theoretically risking prison now for their aggressive reporting on President Bush’s surveillance programs — something for which Sulzberger deserves huge props.

So why this? The Times is an American newspaper published in the United States. The fact that its Web site is available worldwide shouldn’t stop the paper from including stories that might run afoul of local laws. Or is the Times going to start dropping its coverage of human-rights violations in China? (Via Romenesko.)

Update: The story is now online.

Update II: And blocked in the U.K.


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5 Comments

  1. whispers

    What I get from that link (trying to read it from London) is a page that says that the article is unavaiable to readers in Britain. I would prefer to be able to read the story, but Britain does not have any equivalent to the First Amendment.

  2. Anonymous

    This relates back to UK Sub Jubdice Rules. It is more important than a newspaper scoop and should be respected.Here’s some good background copied from the Law Society:The sub judice rule has two main functions. One is to separate legislative and executive powers on the one hand from judicial ones on the other, in order to demonstrate – and to ensure – the independence of the judicial branch of government and the integrity of its processes. For this purpose, there is no difference between different kinds of judicial officers or different kinds of proceedings. This function does not serve the rights of litigants, but instead underlies the structure of government in a democratic society.The other function, however, is to help ensure the fairness of the legal process in individual cases, by protecting decision makers, witnesses and others from material and other influences which come from outside the process itself and which might predispose a decision maker to a particular result, or a witness to give particular evidence. It is part of the protection conferred by English law upon participants in the the fairness of legal proceedings, in particular the ECHR (European Court of Human Rights).

  3. Anonymous

    Is the New York Times Web site “published” in Britain? I suspect the Times is large enough that they employ Akimai or one of the other distributed server farms to distribute their websites — which likely means they have web mirrors located in a UK server-farm. So yes, their website is “published” simultaneously in the US and UK, same as the dead-tree edition; and additionally, anywhere else there are major peering points.[IANAL, but I play one to amuse myself at times.]Bill R

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