Ezra Levant (as I reported in my Fox Special, “What’s Great About America”) was prosecuted for hate speech by the Canadian government for 900 days because he published the Danish Mohammad cartoons that sparked riots around the world. They ended up dropping the case, but he was out $150,000 in legal fees.
Now Levant has been fined $25,000 for calling an official from the agency that charged him a “fibber.” The judge ruled:
“The fact that Levant is a lawyer is an aggravating factor as he either knew or should have known that continued ridiculing of another lawyer using the internet, and accusing another lawyer of fibbing to the Tribunal… was defamatory conduct… I fix damages at $25,000…”
It turned out that the government lawyer did not lie about the issue in question, and as soon as Levant was informed, he posted a correction on his blog. In it, he detailed the circumstances that had originally led him to believe that the government lawyer had been “fibbing.”
Guess that wasn’t enough. The judge ruled that Levant "did not follow responsible journalistic practices or act diligently by checking with a reliable source" before making his claim.
All reporters make mistakes. But when government issues fines for mistakes, especially when they are made by people who criticize government, it chills speech.
In the US, thankfully, the First Amendment protects us from that. So far.