Congress is taking an even more aggressive approach than New York State in responding to the fining of American journalists and authors for libel by foreign courts.
Bills in both the House and Senate would give authors the right to countersue those who have sued them for defamation in foreign courts. In some instances, an American would be able to sue his or her accusers for more than three times the amount of the libel judgment of the foreign court, if the American writer could prove the accuser was trying to intimidate the author from exercising his or her First Amendment rights.
The House bill was introduced by Rep. Peter King, a Republican of Long Island. The Senate version was introduced by Senator Specter, a Republican of Pennsylvania, and Senator Lieberman, an independent of Connecticut.
No other country has the free speech protections of America. Courts in other countries, particularly in Britain, have issued libel judgments in recent years against American journalists. At times, the work at issue was published in America and would qualify as protected speech in this country.
New York State recently passed a law allowing authors to get a judgment against their foreign accuser saying a foreign libel judgment is not enforceable in New York. But the state law does not permit New York authors to countersue for damages, as the federal bill seeks to do.
The bill in New York came after a lawsuit against a researcher of terrorism funding, Rachel Ehrenfeld. A British court had ordered her to pay $60,000 to the family of a Saudi billionaire whom she accused of financing terrorism. The financier, Khalid bin Mahfouz, denies the allegation and has said he "abhors terrorism in all its forms."