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Want some good news? I knew you did. The British government is at long last moving to reform its libel laws.
British libel law is an international scandal. The incentive it offers to libel tourists around the world has had a stifling effect on freedom of expression everywhere. David Allen Green explains the issue, in a remarkably reserved tone, in the New Statesman. (The key point: You’re guilty until proven innocent.)
This 2010 article by Simon Singh will give you a sense of what’s at stake:
On Tuesday morning I will appear at the Court of Appeal in the latest round of a libel battle that has already lasted almost two years, and which could easily continue for another two years. It has cost me more than £100,000 in legal fees and this could double before we reach a final judgment.
What did I write that was so terrible? I published a newspaper article raising concerns about chiropractors who use spinal manipulation to treat children for conditions such as colic, ear infections and asthma. I thought that it was important that parents were aware of the shortage of evidence surrounding such treatments, but the British Chiropractic Association disagreed and sued me personally for libel.
Even more chilling is the famous case against Rachel Ehrenfeld:
In 2005, Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz sued me for libel in London; in a heavily researched book, I had alleged that he funded Al Qaeda. Mahfouz was a one-man wrecking crew of Americans’ free speech rights, who after 9/11 sued or threatened to sue dozens of American writers in plaintiff-friendly English courts. When Mahfouz came after me, I refused to acknowledge the British court, asserting my rights as a U.S. citizen. Nevertheless I was rendered a judgment by default and ordered to pay Mahfouz more than $250,000 and destroy the book.
The Libel Reform Campaign’s account of those who have been silenced should leave you in no doubt that the proposed reforms are reason to rejoice, no matter where you live.