Libel reform: Public interest should be at the heart of the new defamation bill

The Libel Reform Campaign document What should a defamation bill contain? will be launched in the House of Commons on Thursday 10 March 2011, 11.30am – 12.30pm in Committee Room 5.

The Government’s draft defamation bill is imminent and scientists, entertainers and authors are urging parliamentarians to support the Libel Reform Campaign’s blueprint for reform, calling for:

  • Easier ‘strike out’ of trivial or inappropriate claims
  • More effective and clearer defences
  • Modernisation to accommodate the internet
  • Rebalancing of the law to protect the ordinary individual or responsible publisher
  • An end to libel tourism
  • Corporations’ right to sue individuals restricted

The statement (which can be downloaded here):

Dear Members of Parliament

There is broad agreement that England’s libel laws are unfair, outdated, complex and costly, and that as a result they chill free speech. With the imminent publication of the Government’s draft proposals for reform we are writing to endorse the Libel Reform Campaign’s call for the essential reforms set out in their document “What should a Defamation Bill contain?”

We all believe that any individual whose reputation is damaged by a false and defamatory publication should have recourse to the law. But beyond that we need to protect freedom of expression and the rights of citizen critics, and to prevent powerful interests from shutting down discussion on matters in the public interest. We ask you to ensure that, as the Government’s draft proposals are scrutinised over the coming months, the final legislation matches the objectives of the Libel Reform Campaign.

Simon Singh; Dr Ben Goldacre; Dr Peter Wilmshurst; Marcus Brigstocke; Nick Ross; AC Grayling; Joan Bakewell; Professor Roger Penrose; Professor Nancy Rothwell; Jonathan Ross; Dave Gorman; Gillian Slovo; Shappi Khorsandi; John Kampfner, Index on Censorship; Jonathan Heawood, English PEN; Tracey Brown, Sense About Science; Justine Roberts, Mumsnet; Martyn Hocking, Which?; Dr Philip Campbell, Nature; Dr Fiona Godlee, BMJ; Richard Allan, Facebook; Charmian Gooch, Global Witness; Eric Metcalfe, Justice; Naomi McAuliffe, Amnesty

More at

The campaign’s new document here [download]:

What Should a Defamation Bill Contain?