The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword

The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword
Image: Vikas D. Reddy

The value of printing off a manuscript can never be under-valued. Having done so for GREENER IS THE GRASS last week, and having pondered a gaping plot hole in the story since my last re-write, I opened the manuscript last night and began to read.

And it was only by reading the paper version that was I able to see the answer—and it came to me in a flash. Voila! The answer to the riddle I’d been unable to solve that will now allow me to fulfil the story and add a little extra spice to the twist.

Such relief!

I also printed off BACCARA BURNING. I read the first and last page; made my eyes swell. Fans of STELLA will not be disappointed. Well you might be, but I sincerely hope not.

I don’t normally read the Times, I find it too elitist, but Anthony Lester’s article (his full title is Lord Lester of Herne Hill, QC, and is a Liberal Democrat peer) that Britain’s costly, complicated and stifling libel laws must be rebalanced in the scales of justice, came to me through the New Statesman and sparked some interest for me as a writer.

To paraphrase the article, published a couple of days before he brings out his Private Member’s Defamation Bill, Lester said: Libel law in the UK is notoriously costly, complicated and stifling of free speech. The Lib-Con coalition has promised of a long-overdue review of the laws to protect freedom of speech, which until now has remained the preserve of a small group of lawyers skilled in its complex rules and procedures. Current libel law gives robust protection to reputation at the expense of freedom of speech. In this context, the Defamation Bill sets out stronger and clearer defences and strikes a fairer balance between private reputation and public information. It contains a simple framework of principles to be taken into account for opinion and fact, so the law is applied with a sense of proportion. Freedom of speech may be the lifeblood of democracy, but good reputations must be protected against irresponsible journalism.

The pen, it would therefore seem, is truly mightier than the sword. But is it really that complicated to filter out the difference between bad hacking and freedom of speech? In today’s PC society, at what price does the freedom to write thoughts and truths without being prejudiced, stereotypical or untruthful cross the line into a defamatory act?

I referred first to the Collin’s English Dictionary:

slander [slan-der]
1. defamation; calumny: rumours full of slander.
2. a malicious, false, and defamatory statement or report: a slander against his good name.
3. defamation by oral utterance rather than by writing, pictures, etc.

libel [lahy-buhl]
1. Law .
a. defamation by written or printed words, pictures, or in any form other than by spoken words or gestures.
b. the act or crime of publishing it.
c. a formal written declaration or statement, as one containing the allegations of a plaintiff or the grounds of a charge.
2. anything that is defamatory or that maliciously or damagingly misrepresents.

It all seems pretty straight forward to me. By these definitions a written opinion cannot be libelous simply because it IS the written word. Yet, even if defamation occurred, it can only be so if the target of the opinion is specifically mentioned.

Slanderous is closer to the mark, but once again, an opinion based on a person’s feelings cannot justifiably be related to calumny or be defamatory against someone if that is all it is, whether the subject is mentioned or not.

This means that while it is possible to cause offence through an editorial or bad journalism, unless the subjected who is so offended can prove it is false (thereby killing off the rumour line of argument) then freedom of speech stands, ergo, the pen is mightier than the sword.

Peace and out!

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About Colin Galbraith

Thriller author, music fan, St Mirren fan, fluff chucker, rabbit tamer, outstanding fake faller. Loves cannoli.
This entry was posted in Editorial Comment, Fiction, Politics, Publishing and Marketing, Reading, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword

  1. Diane says:

    Oh my goodness, I do everything in hard copy and always print scripts. Typing and word processing are an unnecessary evil as far as I’m concerned. Not only do you spot more things in hard copy, it’s better for the eyesight as uses a different set of muscles.

  2. Pingback: Copywriting. | Revolver Airsoft Guns

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