Monday, September 10, 2007

Freedom Of Speech?

Now, I know that the picture to the left of this might not be the sort of thing that you want to see first thing on a Monday morning (it's certainly doing a good job of putting me off my bacon sandwich), but it is kind of necessary, because the iron fist of legal threat has been banging about over the weekend, and it is my duty to report on heavy-handed legal threats being bandied about by the doubtlessly charming firm of Schillings, the law firm that defend the rich and famous from false allegations on the press (amongst their clients are such role models to us all as Glaxo SmithKline and Naomi Campbell), who have issued stern letters to Craig Murray, a British journalist and former British ambassador to the central Asian state of Uzbekistan and Tom Dunmore, our very good friend from the excellent blog Pitch Invasion.

In view of the various legal threats being thrown around, I have to be a little careful in what I say here, but here is a brief synopsis of what has been going on over the last few days or so. On Thursday, Murray wrote a damning article about Alisher Usmanov, questioning whether he was a fit and proper person to be getting involved in Premier League football (he recently bought a 14.5% share in Arsenal, and said at the time that he wished to expand this holding). Now, I don't know about the truth of the allegations contained therein, but I do know that Schillings sent a letter threatening to sue Murray, and followed this up by sending one to Dunmore, who had written an article quoting extensively from Murray's original, which has already been transposed all over the internet.

Sticking close to the fine journalistic traditions that made it such a great newspaper, The Sunday Times wrote this piece on it yesterday (I don't know whether they had been in receipt of a letter from Schillings too, but they make it pretty clear from the title of the piece where their sympathies lay). Meanwhile, Murray has openly invited Schillings to issue proceedings against him, saying that, "I know lawyers who would be delighted to have the chance to quiz Usmanov in the witness stand". At the time of writing, no such correspondence has been received. I'm pretty certain that this will all blow over in the fullness of time, but I would ask any Arsenal supporters reading this the following question: Is this the sort of thing that you want your club to be getting itself dragged into in order to hang onto the coat-tails of Manchester United and Chelsea?


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