Stare Into Space

Mass Libel Reform Blog

Posted on | November 10, 2010 | Comments Off on Mass Libel Reform Blog

Many of those reading this will be aware of Simon Singh, a writer who was sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association over an article he published in his Guardian column during 2008. The case was followed pretty closely by many science and sceptic (or skeptic for our US cousins) writers and bloggers and the charity Sense About Science campaigned to keep attention on Simon’s progress. There’s no need to go into the details here (read Simon’s Wikipedia page for more information) but suffice it to say, after much legal too and fro, the BCA withdrew their action earlier this year.

What this case has done though, is to call attention to issues with how libel cases are dealt with in the UK and give impetus to a campaign to reform UK libel law.

Now, as an Irish citizen and resident, how is this relevant to me. Truth is, it’s relevant to everybody who ever commits a thought to print (or pixel). Libel tourism is an interesting practice in which someone from any country in the world can be sued for libel through UK courts. Also, while the UK’s laws are considered pretty poor as far as world standards go, let’s face it, those in my own country are little better.

With all that in mind, I’m happy to support the campaign. Remember, you can sign the petition no matter where you live – you don’t need to be a UK resident.

The Mass Libel Reform Blog – Fight for Free Speech!

This week is the first anniversary of the report Free Speech is Not for Sale, which highlighted the oppressive nature of English libel law. In short, the law is extremely hostile to writers, while being unreasonably friendly towards powerful corporations and individuals who want to silence critics.

The English libel law is particularly dangerous for bloggers, who are generally not backed by publishers, and who can end up being sued in London regardless of where the blog was posted. The internet allows bloggers to reach a global audience, but it also allows the High Court in London to have a global reach.

You can read more about the peculiar and grossly unfair nature of English libel law at the website of the Libel Reform Campaign. You will see that the campaign is not calling for the removal of libel law, but for a libel law that is fair and which would allow writers a reasonable opportunity to express their opinion and then defend it.

The good news is that the British Government has made a commitment to draft a bill that will reform libel, but it is essential that bloggers and their readers send a strong signal to politicians so that they follow through on this promise. You can do this by joining me and over 50,000 others who have signed the libel reform petition at

http://www.libelreform.org/sign

Remember, you can sign the petition whatever your nationality and wherever you live. Indeed, signatories from overseas remind British politicians that the English libel law is out of step with the rest of the free world.

If you have already signed the petition, then please encourage friends, family and colleagues to sign up. Moreover, if you have your own blog, you can join hundreds of other bloggers by posting this blog on your own site. There is a real chance that bloggers could help change the most censorious libel law in the democratic world.

We must speak out to defend free speech. Please sign the petition for libel reform at

http://www.libelreform.org/sign

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Gerry Hayes

Gerry Hayes

I mostly sit around all day and drink tea. Occasionally, I write stuff and send it to strangers so they can humiliate me and deride my efforts. Other than the self-harm to dull the shame of failure, it's not a bad life. Like I say, there's tea.

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