Thursday, January 22, 2009

United Kingdom: Submission on Libel Law Reform

19 January 2009
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 costs.
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 UK.
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.

• The Submission is available in English at:• For more information, please contact Toby Mendel, Senior Legal Counsel,, +1 902 431-3688.

Russia: double murder another blow for human rights

20 January 2009

Russia: double murder another blow for human rights
The shocking murders of the lawyer Stanislav Markelov and the young journalist Anastasia Barburova on Monday brings Russia’s human rights record to a new low. The crime is compounded by the knowledge that Russia has a culture where impunity reigns and murderers are rarely brought to justice. Even in the case of a journalist as famous as Anna Politkovskaya, after a rare two-year murder investigation it is the alleged accomplices who are on trial – while the murderer remains at large.

Stanislav Markelov was well known for his work as a human rights lawyer, particularly in Chechnya. Markelov represented the family of 18-year-old Kheda Kungayeva, who was murdered by Yuri Budanov - the first senior officer to be convicted of human rights abuse during the Chechen campaigns. Markelov had announced that he would be challenging Budanov’s early release last week.Those who are brave enough to expose human rights abuses in Russia risk their lives. Over the past few months, victims have included Umar Israilov, a Chechen who claimed that he had been tortured by President Ramzan Kadyrov and had filed a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights. He was shot dead in Vienna last week. Last November, Mikhail Beketov, a local newspaper editor, was assaulted in the Moscow suburb of Khimki and left in a coma. Beketov had been a fearless critic of the local administration. Last summer, Magomed Yevloyev, who owned the website and also bravely exposed abuses, was shot dead in a police car as he was being taken away for questioning. All these cases represent a striking and widespread level of lawlessness. We would like to remind the Russian authorities that as a State Party to the European Convention on Human Rights, Russia has agreed to secure the human rights of all within its jurisdiction, including the right to life and to freedom of expression.ARTICLE 19, English PEN and Index on Censorship call on the Russian authorities to do everything in their power to bring those responsible for the murders of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Barburova to justice – and to demonstrate the will to address the continuing culture of impunity.

• For more information: please contact Anoush Begoyan, ARTICLE 19 Europe Programme Officer at or +44 20 7278 9292 or Jo Glanville, Editor: Index on Censorship at mailto : or +44 20 7278 2313 / +44 771 302 0971.