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Council accused of gagging Web site

Freedom of speech v defamation

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A Merseyside man claims his Web site has been gagged over allegations that it defamed local councillors.

Mick Dempsey runs Kirkby Times, a fiercely independent news site which provides "local news, not spin-doctored rubbish". It receives contributions from local people and takes particular relish in keeping tabs on the activities of the local council.

Last week, though, site host Telewest pulled the Kirkby Times site after receiving a letter from Knowsley Council.

Mr Dempsey managed to get the site hosted elsewhere and is continuing to publish, but is furious at the way he's been treated.

"At no time did Knowsley Council or any of their officers or councillors ever contact me direct to complain about any content," he said. "Knowsley Council pay lip service to democracy, but when confronted with real democracy, in the form of free speech, they seek to gag it."

In a statement Knowsley Council defended its actions.

"Knowsley Council has not closed down Kirkby Times website. The authority had raised the issue of defamatory remarks about officers and councillors on this site with the Internet provider and asked that they deal with it in an appropriate manner.

"The request was that any necessary action was taken for the removal of these remarks; the subsequent action taken by the Internet provider was their decision," it said.

A spokesman for Telewest confirmed that it had been contacted by Knowsley Council concerning the site.

"We took legal advice and decided to remove the site," he said. ®

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