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PLEASE HELP WITH LIBEL REFORM PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

The oppressive nature of UK libel law really should be a matter of great concern to all rationalists, here and abroad.  It is extremely hostile to writers, and unreasonably friendly towards powerful corporations and individuals who want to silence their critics. Our UK friend Simon Singh has – remarkably – won a court decision recently that encourages us to support his efforts to bring about a change in that law (more information about which can be found here). He fought the chiropractic profession over there when they sued him for damages for what they said was libel, and now the JREF is asking that our readers help to promote a move to improve the UK law.

This English libel law is particularly dangerous for bloggers, who are generally not backed by publishers, and who can end up being sued, 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. The campaign we ask you to support is not calling for the removal of libel law, but for a fair libel law which would allow writers a reasonable opportunity to express their opinions and then defend them without undue fear of onerous, unfair reprisal.

The British Government has now 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 Simon – and me – and over 50,000 others who have already signed the libel reform petition at http://www.libelreform.org/sign

Please help in this worthwhile campaign. Though we in the USA are not specifically affected, the whole rationalist/skeptic community needs to rally and be heard on the matter.  You can sign the petition, whatever your nationality and wherever you live. Indeed, signatories from overseas serve to remind British politicians that the English libel law is out of step with the rest of the free world.

Take a few minutes and sign up, and 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’s a real chance here that bloggers could help change the most censorious libel law in the democratic world.

As Simon himself says, “We must speak out to defend free speech. Please sign the petition for libel reform at http://www.libelreform.org/sign” 

Thank you, folks.

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written by Soapy Sam, November 12, 2010
I suspect most of us UKians here willhave already signed the petition, but as it's often foreigners who bring the libel suits, non- Brits do indeed have an interest.
One UK charity very active in the libel campaign is "Sense about Science". Their website gives updates about recent libel activity. http://www.senseaboutscience.o...oject/333/

They are also active in fundraising for the campaign to press for legal reform.
Any UK (and overseas interested parties) might want to take a look.

Also- don't forget to check the thread on Simon Singh's court case in the JREF Forum.
http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=121214&page=38
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written by Willy K, November 12, 2010
Oh were is Rumpole when we need him. smilies/wink.gif
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@ Swift
written by Caller X, November 12, 2010
Two things to remember: someone suing for libel in the UK can farm out the heavy lifting to lawyers in India at a bargain rate, and in the UK it's possible to be sued for libeling the dead.

Now where is that "cut your heads off guy"? Because I really need my head cut off.

Apparently the "report abuse" button does nothing. Good thing there's no God.
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While I'm all in favor of the Brits reforming their libel laws
written by garyg, November 13, 2010
...I can't help but wonder if they won't resent foreigners telling them how to run their country. It's certainly not hard to imagine Americans getting their backs up a little if someone told us to change something about how we run our affairs, even if we agreed with them in principle. I just wonder whether those opposed to reform might be able to play the "outside interference" angle to oppose reform.
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Has the USA suddenly gone soft on telling other countries what to do?!
written by occasional, November 14, 2010
"...I can't help but wonder if they won't resent foreigners telling them how to run their country. It's certainly not hard to imagine Americans getting their backs up a little if someone told us to change something about how we run our affairs, even if we agreed with them in principle. I just wonder whether those opposed to reform might be able to play the "outside interference" angle to oppose reform."
This is very unusual reticence for someone from the USA, garyg. I always understood the American approach to other countries doing things differently was to invade that country, or send someone from the CIA to assassinate whichever leader you disapprove of! Why the sudden change of heart?
Seriously, in the present context, one of the biggest problems of current UK libel laws is that they make it ridiculously easy for people outside the UK to bring a suit within the UK. So having pressure for change from Americans or anyone else outside the UK is a positive, not a negative input.
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It matters to colonials and other unwashed foreigners because...
written by Marcus, November 16, 2010
...the UK has become a destination for "libel tourism". It is perfectly possible (and not that rare) for a person in one (non-UK) country to sue for libel through the British courts a person who published something in another (non-UK) country - all they have to do is establish that the publication was available in the UK. In the modern era, of course, that covers the majority of anything published anywhere in the "free" world. So yes, since it means you can personally be sued under these laws, you have a moral right to let our legislators know how insane the UK libel laws are.
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written by Soapy Sam, November 17, 2010
Just a wee correction.
As everyone knows, the politics of the UK is (internally) more complex than the quantum states of a Uranium atom.
The legal systems in England , Wales and Northern Ireland differ from that in Scotland.
It's the English system that seems most open to abuse, libel-wise.
In Scotland, if you say something rude about us, we are less likely to sue than to get the claymore out of the thatch,
put your town to the sword- yeay even unto the third generation- and make off with your kine, oxen and asses.

It's a traditional thing.
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