June 27, 2017

Publishers are banding together to take on a logging company over free speech


The “Blue Marble” photograph of Earth, taken during the Apollo 17 lunar mission in 1972. Via Wikipedia.

While writers and agents and publishers and scouts and readers and booksellers flocked to the Javits Center for BookExpo earlier this month, a petition signed by more than 100 authors representing various major publishers was circulating. The demand, as Danuta Kean reports for The Guardian, was that some members of the Big Five “use their clout” to exert pressure on Resolute Forest Products, a logging company that has filed a claim against the environmental organization Greenpeace.

Greenpeace argues that Resolute “is responsible for the destruction of vast areas of Canada’s magnificent boreal forest, damaging critical woodland caribou habitat and logging without consent of impacted First Nations”; Resolute’s reaction—a civil claim under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)—has been interpreted as a threat to free speech, particularly troubling in this instance as it comes on the heels of President Trump’s promise to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement.

“You need these NGOs to be able to do their work and be whistleblowers,” Ronald Blunden said on behalf of Hachette, “because if they disappear, and if the US pulls out of the Paris accord, who will be left to speak up and defend the environment?”

As Greenpeace said in a statement:

The $300 million CAD Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) lawsuit that Resolute has filed in the US, uses a set of laws designed to prosecute the mafia, to sue environmental advocates. Resolute essentially argues that environmental advocacy constitutes criminal behavior. By delegitimizing essential advocacy work for forest protection, which provides important oversight on corporations like Resolute, and by imposing harsh financial penalties on protected free speech, this lawsuit could have a chilling effect on freedom of speech in general. Ultimately Resolute’s meritless lawsuits against Greenpeace could impact individuals and groups across civil society that seek to make positive changes by making it too expensive and risky to engage in free speech, advocacy, informed expert opinions, and even research.

Read the full report here.



Taylor Sperry is a former Melville House editor.