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Publication of a book on Scientology is cancelled in the UK after legal threats

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“Our legal advice was that some of the content was not robust enough for the UK market and an appropriately edited version would not fit with our schedule. The decision not to publish was taken internally,” Transworld’s publicity director, Patsy Irwin, said in a statement, according to the UK’s Telegraph.

The Church of Scientology says it attempted many times to reach out to Wright and his publisher.

“The author and publisher refused to provide the Church with a copy of the book and showed little interest in receiving input from the Church during both the writing and the so-called 'fact-checking,’” church spokesperson Karin Pouw said in a statement. “Having seen how inaccurate his New Yorker article was, the Church asked numerous times for a reasonable opportunity to assist in helping making his book factual. More than 15 requests were ignored, many not answered at all. From the limited excerpts we have seen, the book contains numerous falsehoods and we think it wise that they chose not to publish it in the UK.”

We take no sides in the controversy over Scientology, but we are appalled at Transworld’s decision not to publish “Going Clear.” Literature is not, and has never been, about playing it safe. From the beginning of time, books have made bold claims. For a publisher in the 21st century to be bullied out of publishing this book is a shame. 

Ultimately, the decision not to publish “Going Clear” in the UK says more about that country’s libel laws than about the book itself. Considered overly punitive and archaic, British libel laws have long been the subject of censure by writers and free speech advocates.

“Our libel laws remain some of the most archaic in the Western world with cases in the High Court in London costing 100 times the European average,” Mike Harris, head of Advocacy at Index on Censorship, told the Telegraph. “The government is currently piloting legislation through Parliament to reform the law, but unfortunately it isn't strong enough. Even under these reforms, the chill on public interest publication will remain.”

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

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