Nov 102009
 November 10, 2009  Non-U.S., Online

English PEN, a charity that promotes the human rights of writers and publishers, and Index on Censorship, a body that promotes freedom of expression, spent a year investigating English libel laws. Their joint report, Free Speech Is Not For Sale, was published today.

They say that England’s libel law “was designed to serve the rich and powerful and does not reflect the interests of a modern democratic society.” They have proposed 10 changes to current laws that they want the Government to introduce in a Libel Bill.

Read more on   From the report’s summary:

1. In libel, the defendant is guilty until proven innocent

Recommendation: Require the claimant to demonstrate damage and falsity

2. English libel law is more about making money than saving a reputation

Recommendation: Cap damages at £10,000

3. The definition of ‘publication’ defies common sense

Recommendation: Abolish the Duke of Brunswick rule and introduce a single publication rule

4. London has become an international libel tribunal

Recommendation: No case should be heard in this jurisdiction unless at least 10 per cent of copies of the relevant publication have been circulated here

5. There are few viable alternatives to a full trial

Recommendation: Establish a libel tribunal as a low-cost forum for hearings

6. There is no robust public interest defence in libel law

Recommendation: Strengthen the public interest defense

7. Comment is not free

Recommendation: Expand the definition of fair comment

8. The potential cost of defending a libel action is prohibitive

Recommendation: Cap base costs and make success fees and ‘After the Event’ (ATE) insurance premiums non-recoverable

9. The law does not reflect the arrival of the internet

Recommendation: Exempt interactive online services and interactive chat from liability

10. Not everything deserves a reputation

Recommendation: Exempt large and medium-sized corporate bodies and associations from libel law unless they can prove malicious falsehood

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