Tuesday, January 20, 2009

United Kingdom : Submission on libel law reform

United Kingdom : Submission on libel law reform
ARTICLE 19 has provided a Submission to the Inquiry into press standards,
privacy and libel being undertaken by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee
of the UK Parliament. The Committee is looking into possible reform of the UK’s
libel and privacy laws. The ARTICLE 19 Submission identifies problems in four
key areas, namely jurisdiction over cases, standards of liability, damages and
The Culture, Media and Sport Committee announced on 18 November 2008 that it was conducting an inquiry into press standards, privacy and libel, and calling for submissions. Among other things, the Committee is looking at the relationship between press reporting and the UK libel laws and the impact of conditional fee arrangements (no-win no-fee arrangements with lawyers) on press freedom.

The ARTICLE 19 Submission highlights a number of key issues in relation to UK libel law, with a particular focus on the impact of these laws on advocacy NGOs. Among other things, the Submission recommends:
_ To prevent the UK from remaining a ‘libel tourism’ destination, rules should
be put in place so that UK courts may only consider defamation cases where
there is a substantial connection between the statements in question and the
_ Defamation defendants should benefit from a more generous ‘reasonable
publication’ defence, in line with the practice in many other democracies.
_ More stringent limitations should be placed on defamation damage awards and
more emphasis should be given in this context to non-pecuniary remedies.
_ Conditional fee arrangements in defamation cases should either be prohibited
altogether or subjected to stringent conditions.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the UK Parliament to take the necessary steps to give effect to these recommendations.


· For more information, please contact Toby Mendel, Senior Legal Counsel,
a19law@hfx.eastlink.ca, +1 902 431-3688.

· ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works around the world to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression. It takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees free speech.

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