Monday, 22 March 2010


Breaking news from the Campaign for Libel Reform.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw is to address the Mass Lobby of Parliament organised by
The Libel Reform Campaign led by English PEN, Index on Censorship and Sense About Science that is to be held later today (March 23rd). At the lobby, he will announce an historic commitment to reform England’s archaic libel laws, after a national campaign that has galvanised 43,000 supporters and persuaded 260 MPs to sign a Parliamentary Early Day Motion and its rider.

The campaign has already secured the backing of the Liberal Democrats, resulting from Simon Singh, Ben Goldacre, Nick Cohen, Sile Lane and Dr. Evan Harris MP joining Prof. Richard Dawkins in presenting the case for libel reform at last year's annual conference. More recently, the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee backed the cause by endorsing many of the libel reform campaign's demands in a report into Press Standards, Privacy and Libel.

Reacting to the news that Jack Straw will committ the Labour Party to reforming the iniquitous libel legislation,
John Kampfner, the CEO of Index on Censorship said,
The Labour Party will show a commitment to actual reform to enhance civil liberties in this country. With two of the three major political parties now committed to reform, we ask David Cameron to back our campaign.

Tracey Brown, the Managing Director of Sense About Science said:

It would be ludicrous for any party to suggest we should continue with these unfair and ridiculed libel laws. We need freedom of speech that we can exercise confidently, to discuss science and medicine or any other subject of public interest. Not semi-feudal laws that tie people up in court for two years and chill public discussion.

Jonathan Heawood, the Director of English PEN said,

Over 40,000 people have signed the libel reform petition. The level of popular support for reform shows that this law is not just about journalists but human rights activists, scientists and academics, even mothers chatting online: free expression really is an issue for everyone.
Such a positive endorsement of the need for reform must be welcomed, and it now falls on the Campaign for Libel Reform and the thousands of people who have supported it to maintain the momentum gathered thus far, to ensure that this committment is translated into concrete and workable legislative reform. Let's hope that today sees the turning point in the battle to protect responsible journalism and scientific discourse from the chilling effects of English libel law.


Russell said...

More good news. The momentum is well and truly behind us.

Rachit said...

Yep, looks like the campaigning has worked this time!

Noodlemaz said...

Thanks for commenting on my blog! Glad you liked the account, I was a bit concerned it was just minutes from the meeting!!

Certainly, all the writing us little people do does help - 2 years of hell for Simon and his family and all the other people who have faced such legal action, but I do think that knowing people are behind you can keep you afloat when it gets really difficult.

The beauty of the interweb!

teekblog said...

@Noodlemaz: indeed, teh internets have proved themselves rather useful in the course of this campaign and others - not just as a tool for us to show our support for the likes of Simon, but also as a method of drumming up enough public support to pile the pressure onto Parliamentarians - as Jack Straw said, yesterday's meeting was one of the best-attended he's seen, which doesn't just reflect how important an issue libel reform is, it also reflects the Campaign's excellent use of online engagement.