LONDON, June 22 (UPI) -- A three-judge panel in Britain Friday strengthened the "fair comment" right for newspaper reviewers by turning back a libel suit arising from an opera review.
The London Court of Appeals panel found in favor of Associated Newspapers' "fair comment" defense in relation to critic Veronica Lee's review in the Evening Standard, defeating composer Keith Burstein's libel claim, the London Press Gazette reported Friday.
Burstein sued for libel based on Lee's review of his opera "Manifest Destiny," which contained, "I found the tone depressingly anti-American, and the idea that there is anything heroic about suicide bombers is, frankly, a grievous insult."
In his lawsuit, Burstein claimed Lee's remark meant he was "a sympathizer with terrorist causes and actively promotes such belief in his artistic work."
The ruling overturned an October High Court ruling. The panel also ordered the composer to return $16,000 he was awarded by the High Court and pay the newspaper's court costs.
After viewing a DVD of the opera, Justice David Keene said, "I conclude ... that the words are plainly comment and that no reasonable jury could treat them as a statement of fact."