The threat of a lawsuit is something with which few people outside the media will be familiar. But work in investigative journalism, and the likelihood of being the target of legal action becomes far greater.
Getting a letter from lawyers is routine at the Bureau. We contact anyone we’re going to write about to make sure they have a chance to respond to any allegations a story might contain, and to give their comments.
Quite often, they ask their lawyers to respond on their behalf. So it’s not unusual for us to correspond with legal teams, and we have our own law firm that advises us on how to respond to those.
If we get a complaint after publication – whether via lawyers or not – we take it very seriously. While we will have already meticulously fact checked the piece, we will go through it again to see if we have made a mistake. If we think we have, we will apologise – privately and publicly – and correct it. If, however, we believe our reporting is correct, we will always stand by it.
And that is what we are doing now. We, along with openDemocracy, are crowdfunding in the wake of a lawsuit from the Nazarbayev Fund.
We have found ourselves in one of those rare situations when the subject of one of our investigations wants to sue us for defamation. It’s a process that if it reaches the courts, can take months or years, and cost significant time and money.
The Bureau is facing an unprecedented legal fight for doing our job – and we need your help.Click here to donate to our crowdfunding campaign
As we would if ever we are facing such action, we have taken legal advice and gone over the story once again to ensure we can defend everything we have said, and that we followed our processes properly. We believe it is vital that organisations like ours stand by our journalism if we understand it to be correct and believe it to be in the public interest.
At this point, it’s decision time. Do we try to fight the case or not? Defamation law in the UK is complex and any case involves many moving parts. However confident we are in our story, there is no guarantee we will win, so it’s always a tense decision.
In the case of this story, and the Nazarbayev Fund, we have decided to try to make the case public, because we think this lawsuit is aimed at stopping public interest journalism more than it is about correcting any supposed inaccuracies – and we think this sort of reporting is vital.
If you’re able to help us with the case, please do consider donating to our crowdfunder, or sharing it on social media.
In the meantime, we will continue publishing public interest journalism and telling the stories that matter.