Monday, December 14, 2009

Why Libel Reform is Needed

This is the text of a press release sent out last week by

Bloggers Back National Petition for Libel Reform
English PEN, Index on Censorship and Sense About Science

English PEN, Index on Censorship and Sense About Science are urging bloggers to sign the National Petition for Libel Reform. The blogosphere is an often rowdy place, but our libel laws allow those with money to bully and intimidate individuals. The threat of libel action has a chilling effect on freedom of expression.

Not just bloggers are being silenced. English libel laws as they stand threaten the freedom of speech of all. They have stopped debate around gangsterism, corruption, the funding of terrorism and the promotion of ineffective medical treatment. The rich and powerful from all over the globe sue in London, where 90% of cases are won by claimants. The costs are 140 times greater than other jurisdictions and there is no robust public interest defence for writers.
In early November, English PEN and Index launched their ‘Free Speech Is Not For Sale’ report. It detailed the chilling effect of English libel law on freedom of expression in the UK and across the world. Together with Sense About Science we will launch a public petition for libel reform on 9 December.

The petition is being backed by members of all the major political parties. The justice secretary, Jack Straw MP, is considering reform of our libel laws and members of the Conservative front bench have indicated that they may consider reform if there is strong public support for change. Given that the Liberal Democrats are now committed to substantial reform we urge other parties to make this commitment.

Britain’s favourite political blogger Iain Dale said:

"Blogger Alex Hilton is being dragged to Court because someone else wrote a single comment on his blog. I'm deeply concerned that our libel laws are being used to silence debate over serious issues. We need reform."

Allen Green, a solicitor who also writes the Jack of Kent blog, said:

"Libel law currently inhibits and distorts important debates about public health, public safety, the conduct of powerful corporations, and even the conduct of police officers. The sheer ease with which a libel case can be brought creates a disproportionate burden for defendants. People are simply deterred from saying things about important matters which would be useful for others to know. This cannot be right."

Get behind the campaign at so that bloggers can express their views without fear of legal retribution. Sign the petition to send a clear message to our politicians that reform is popular and necessary.

If you want to back the campaign to reform the libel laws in this country you can do so HERE.


Mark Senior said...

Whislt it is true that those with money are able to use the threats of taken legal action to intimidate and threaten bloggers in some cases , there are sadly cases where bloggers knowing that those who have insufficient money are unable to bring legal action take the opportunity to regularly publish malicious and vile and untrue comments on their blogs .

Unknown said...

I presume Paul Staines won't be supporting this campaign, given his use of libel threats to silence other bloggers? Or is he just another hypocrite.

Old Holborn said...

No censorship. No moderation. No adverts. No profits

See that?

Sue me if you dare.

You cannot sue me because I own a white wall and people choose to deface it.

You cannot sue me if I make no profit from free speech.

You cannot sue me if you don't know who I am.

Nobody sues Old Holborn.

And it costs me not one penny. Start your own blogs. Tomorrow.

Iain Dale said...

Yes, OH, all very well, but I do know who you are. I know your name.