Yesterday the UK Justice Secretary laid out his plans for the draft defamation bill in the House of Commons. You can read it here. The Deputy Prime Minister, a strong supporter, also sets out his vision for the bill here.
The publication of the draft legislation was the culmination of a campaign Index on Censorship has led for the last 18 months to reform England’s archaic libel laws. The Free Speech Is Not For Sale report co-written by Index on Censorship and English PEN set the framework for a national debate about free expression and reputation. With a third partner, Sense About Science, we signed up 55,000 people, predominantly from the UK and USA, to join our campaign.
When our campaign began no political party in Britain had committed to wholesale reform of these laws since 1945; at the last general election each of the main political parties had done so. Over the past nine months, the coalition government took forward our suggestions. We are now working to improve the bill ahead of its passage through parliament over the next year.
As John Kampfner, our CEO, outlined in today’s Financial Times, English law had been used by the powerful to chill the free speech of NGOs, academics and other citizens around the world. The proposed changes go a considerable way to addressing the imbalance. This will be the first time in a generation that UK libel laws have been looked at anew – and we are confident that it will make a significant difference to free expression across the globe.
We wouldn’t be here without your support.
Index on Censorship