A new libel reform bill is coming to the UK, according to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II. The queen mentioned the forthcoming bill during a May 9 speech in front of Parliament, the New York Times reported.
Some of the reforms proposed:
- New “statutory defenses of truth and honest opinion” instead of “common law defences of justification and honest comment”
- Public interest defenses
- Jurisdiction Guidance: libel cases must either be against people living “in the UK or a European Union member state” or the UK has to be “the most appropriate place” to sue
UK Justice Secretary Ken Clarke, who “published the bill,” said that it “will rebalance the law” to continue to allow legitimate defamation cases but to prevent “such action unjustifiably hindering freedom of expression,” according to the Huffington Post UK.
Nature journal, which “backed the libel reform campaign,” noted in a May 11 blog that the bill will “provide a specific protection to statements in scientific or academic journals…conditional on the statements having been independently reviewed by a journal editor and one or more experts.”
Reactions to the Announcement and Bill
The UK Libel Reform Campaign responded to the announcement by saying that ” there is still work to be done and we will carry on campaigning to make sure that the detail in the final Bill will truly deliver reform,” according to the UK Independent.
Index on Censorship’s Kirsty Hughes said the group is “delighted that the Government has announced this reform, though we’ll be awaiting detail,” according to the Press Gazette.
On its website, Index on Censorship said “congratulations to all” on the proposals, noting that “nearly 100 organisations and our 60,000 supporters…have been calling for” libel reform. Index on Censorship also collected a series of quotes about the proposed legislation.
The New York Times noted that “all three of the main political parties” in the UK have backed plans to reform the libel law.
We wrote in March 2011 when Ukrainian newspaper the Kyiv Post started letting UK readers visit its site. The newspaper blocked traffic to the UK after being sued in the UK, but ended its ban after the case was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.
We wrote in December 2010 when the UK Supreme Court updated its libel law to change the “fair comment” defense to “honest comment.”