Britain announces plans to reform libel laws

The British government announced plans on Friday to reform its laws on defamation, amid fears they are hampering freedom of speech and encouraging "libel tourism" by the world`s rich and powerful.

Updated: Jul 10, 2010, 00:15 AM IST

London: The British government announced
plans on Friday to reform its laws on defamation, amid fears they
are hampering freedom of speech and encouraging "libel
tourism" by the world`s rich and powerful.

The Ministry of Justice said it would publish draft
legislation for consultation early in 2011, looking at how
existing laws intended to protect people`s reputations could
be damaging research and investigative journalism.
"We need investigative journalism and scientific research
to be able to flourish without the fear of unfounded, lengthy
and costly defamation and libel cases being brought against
them," said Justice Minister Lord Tom McNally.

"We are committed to reforming the law on defamation and
want to focus on ensuring that a right and a fair balance is
struck between freedom of expression and the protection of
reputation."
England`s libel laws are widely viewed as some of the
toughest in the world and the press have dubbed London the
"libel capital" of the world because of the stream of foreign
claimants who come here to sue for defamation.

Index on Censorship, a non-governmental organisation that
has long been calling for a change in the law, said it was
"delighted" at the announcement by Prime Minister David
Cameron`s new coalition government.

PTI