Olympics Organisers Threaten Blogger Over Defamation

M@
By M@ Last edited 102 months ago
Olympics Organisers Threaten Blogger Over Defamation

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"Dust? What dust?"

A Hackney Wick resident has been threatened with legal action by the Olympic Delivery Authority after allowing dodgy comments to remain on a blog and associated forum. Sóna Abantu-Choudhury maintains the Leabank Square site, where local residents regularly vent spleen about the noise and dust kicked up by construction activity on the Olympic Park. They're dissatisfied that preventative measures such as water bowsers and foam cannon (sounds like something out of Gladiators) have not, in their opinion, lived up to expectation. Some of their comments went a little far, reportedly threatening an individual and making untrue claims about ODA activity. Cue, a cease-and-desist from the Olympic bods.

We have every sympathy for the residents, who sound like they're having a hellish time beside one of the biggest construction sites in the world. But the ODA are completely within their rights to stamp out malicious and defamatory accusations, whether they come from mainstream press or hyperlocal blogs. English libel law is far from perfect, but nobody has the right to publish false and hurtful allegations about an individual. Whether the ODA is acting in its best interests to pursue this case, and bring heaps more attention to these community relations problems than would otherwise be the case, is another matter. But we respect their decision to stick up for their employee just as we respect the Leabank Square residents' wider efforts to get the best deal for their community.

The site has since removed the contested comments, but has now published the original letter from the ODA and a rather vexed response from Abantu-Choudhury. We'll keep a close eye on this one. Image by suburbanslice in the Londonist Flickr pool.

Last Updated 18 August 2009

KingAndy

Ms Sharpe is not a private individual in this context - she is the agent of a public authority.
There are very good reasons why public authorities cannot bring actions for libel - and why they should not be spending our money backing private matters of injured feelings like this.
The ODA are far from being 'completely within their rights to stamp out malicious and defamatory accusations' when in reality it is the organisation itself that stands accused. This is very dangerous path indeed.
Bear in mind that 'reportedly threatening an individual' is a matter for the police, not a libel action, and I have followed the blog closely and seen nothing worse than threats to 'give Olympics people a good earful if they come knocking'. Paul Norman's Olympic Blog agrees.