The time has come for libel law reform in Northern Ireland

Dr Peter Wilmshurst, second from left, talks to Jo Glanville of the writers' organisation English PEN, at the libel reform event at the MAC in Belfast

Dr Peter Wilmshurst, second from left, talks to Jo Glanville of the writers' organisation English PEN, at the libel reform event at the MAC in Belfast

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A recent excerpt from a 275-year-old News Letter, from the 1739 editions that we are serialising daily (see opposite page), gave an early glimpse of the balance between press freedom and libel constraints.

The article was a letter from an owner of chickens, who had in an earlier edition of the News Letter implied that opposing owners had cheated against him in a cock fight (a fight between chickens, as was popular in that era).

They had countered that he was guilty of bad practice. In his letter, the owner furiously denied that charge, and said that he had been libelled.

 

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