A good week for libel reform
All major political parties now back libel reform --- and the Libel Reform campaign celebrates 50,000 signatures in support of change
15 Apr 10

All the major political parties now back libel reform — and the Libel Reform campaign celebrates 50,000 signatures in support of change

The Libel Reform Campaign welcomes manifesto commitments to reform England’s libel laws from all three of Britain’s main political parties. On Monday, the Labour party pledged to reform libel laws in their manifesto, followed by the Conservative party on Tuesday and the Liberal Democrats today. The focus now shifts to ensuring the politicians act on their commitments and to the substance of the reforms.

The Libel Reform Campaign has highlighted the chilling effect that our libel laws have on freedom of expression in the UK and overseas. This morning the campaigns petition received its 50,000th signature calling for libel reform, to sign up visit .

The Manifesto Pledges

The Labour party manifesto released on 12 April said:

To encourage freedom of speech and access to information, we will bring forward new legislation on libel to protect the right of defendants to speak freely.

The Conservative party manifesto released on 13 April said:

We will review and reform libel laws to protect freedom of speech, reduce costs and discourage libel tourism.

The Liberal Democrat party manifesto released on 14 April said:

[We will] Protect free speech, investigative journalism and academic peer-reviewed publishing through reform of the English and Welsh libel laws — including by requiring corporations to show damage and prove malice or recklessness, and by providing a robust responsible journalism defence.

The Libel Reform campaign says

Jo Glanville, the Editor of Index on Censorship said:

Now we have a commitment to reform through the Parliamentary process, we need to ensure that we get the type of robust reform that will entrench the fundamental right to freedom of expression for writers, human rights activists, scientists and academics and not watered-down reforms that well-paid lawyers will slowly dilute further.

Jonathan Heawood, the Director of English PEN said:

Through strength of argument and strength of numbers we have persuaded all three major political parties that it’s time to reform our libel laws. These cross-party manifesto commitments will ensure that even in the event of a hung parliament, there is one thing the next government will agree on: libel reform.

Tracey Brown, the Managing Director of Sense About Science said:

The political parties have agreed with our campaign and said enough is enough, we simply can’t continue with our unfair and ridiculed libel laws. We need freedom of speech that we can exercise confidently, to discuss science and medicine or any other subject of public interest. Not semi-feudal laws that tie people up in court for two years and chill public discussion.