NEWS
US Congress passes libel tourism bill
28 Jul 2010
BY INDEX ON CENSORSHIP

The US Congress has approved a bill aimed at protecting US writers from libel tourists using English courts to pursue defamation claims. The SPEECH (Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage) Act now goes to President Obama to be signed into law.

Watch Congressman Steve Cohen speak on the bill:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1wjBFIl66w

Read the text of the bill here

2 responses to “US Congress passes libel tourism bill”

  1. As the principal author of the whistleblower website, http://www.sirpeterscott.com, which was the first to leak the international story of the National Student Survey scandal, I am disappointed by Paul Tweed’s response to the passage of the “SPEECH ACT” by the US. I am, however, not surprised, given that Mr Tweed earns his living pursuing defamation claims, even though he indicates that he has never sought to enforce a UK judgment in the US.

    Not only was I prosecuted twice on harassment charges in the UK for operating this site, the second time resulting in a finding of ‘no case to answer’ but I was also issued with veiled threats of defamation action in connection with witness statements set forth in connection with my trial, potentially amounting to witness intimidation.

    Had I actually been sued for defamation under British law, I would have been forced to defend such an action, even though the information contained on my site is demonstrably true, and at a cost that I could not possibly have born, thus resulting in a likely default judgment.

    Fortunately, now that the SPEECH Act has been passed and since I was forced to flee to the US for my life following death threats occurring in the UK, I am protected from defamation actions filed by those wishing to silence my right to free speech guaranteed to me under the US constitution, which (fortunately) does not protect rich public officials and institutions from being ’embarassed’ by the exposure of truth concerning the performance of their public duties.

    This is not a matter of protecting large publishers. Rather, it is a way of protecting ordinary people, the ‘little guy’ if you will, against devastating litigation launched for the purpose of silencing genuine criticism in the public interest.

  2. Paul Tweed says:

    SIGNING OF SPEECH ACT BY PRESIDENT OBAMA

    The priority afforded to this US “Libel Tourism” legislation is as inappropriate and unnecessary as it is bewildering. As a UK/Irish media lawyer of more than 30 years standing, I have never once sought to enforce a UK libel judgment in the US, and I am still waiting to be advised of one single example of such an attempt by any other practitioner.

    As the lobbying campaign is continuing to be driven by the publishing industry in the UK, I again have to ask the question…….what could possibly have justified such a high profile campaign, in circumstances where the number of libel actions brought by international personalities in the UK has been negligible? Notwithstanding this scenario, we have this media frenzy persistently criticising our defamation laws – legislation which, in my respectful opinion, has contributed in no small measure to ensuring that our broadsheets are among the most credible in the world. In the absence of such laws, it would effectively be impossible for the man on the street to have access to any form of justice, while encouraging the often one sided propaganda that is regularly exhibited in the American press.

    Whilst I have absolutely no problem with a fair and balanced debate, the hysteria emanating from certain sections of our press is both misleading and mischievous, and is geared more to protecting the financial interests of publishers, rather than having any reasonable justification.

    On another note, now that comity appears to have been thrown out the window, it will be interesting to see how the President and Congress react if and when any similar moves are made by other countries to undermine and circumvent US laws!