Buried Alive: U.K. Libel Suit Hits U.S. Web Site

In a case with implications for investigative journalism in the Internet age, a Canadian mining company has successfully used British libel law to shut down part of a U.S.-based Web site. Barrick Gold Corporation sued over an article for the Guardian by freelance reporter Greg Palast, who detailed large corporate and individual donations to the Republican Party and candidate George W. Bush; allegations that CEO Peter Munk helped Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi win a pardon from Bush Sr.; Barrick's 1992 takeover of U.S. government property estimated to contain $10 billion in gold for $10,000; and George H.W. Bush's job on Barrick's payroll in which the ex-president supposedly interceded with two Third World dictators on the company's behalf. The part that upset Barrick the most, however, was Palast's reference reports by Amnesty International and Tanzanian newspapers that a company subsidiary carried out the "extrajudicial killings" of 50 independent miners by burying them alive. It doesn't matter whether Palast's story is accurate, and Barrick has not bothered to refute his charges. Under British libel law, a story can be correct in all of its facts and still be found defamatory.