Newspapers appeal against Interbrew ruling

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The Independent Online

The Independent is appealing against a High Court order to hand over confidential documents relating to a possible takeover bid by Interbrew, the Belgian brewer, for South African Breweries.

The order relates to documents leaked last month to several newspapers, including The Independent. Interbrew later confirmed it had undertaken "a preliminary analysis of South African Breweries" as part of a routine annual review of its rivals. It later added that it "does not currently intend" to make an offer for the company.

Interbrew has obtained an injunction to prevent further use of the documents which appeared to have been falsified by an unknown source to give the impression that a bid was imminent. The fact that the documents appeared to have had been doctored was included in The Independent. Interbrew had applied for the documents to be handed over to enable it to discover the source of the leak.

The claim was against the Financial times, The Independent, Guardian Newspapers, Times Newspapers and Reuters.

The Independent argued that handing over the documents and revealing the source would prevent other sources from coming forward with information that ought to be made public and this was part of the role of a free Press. The Independent also argued that the prompt reporting of such information prevented a false market developing in the shares of the companies in question.

Mr Justice Lightman said the "only likely object of the source in doctoring the presentation and distributing the doctored copies in this way was to create a false market in the shares of the claimant and SAB, and this appears to have been successful."

All the newspapers and Reuters are appealing against the judgement.

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