George Monbiot writes in today’s Guardian about the shame of our libel laws in the UK.
The Rath case highlights the basic injustice of such laws,
Rath, a German doctor, appears to have encouraged South Africans with HIV to stop using anti-retroviral drugs, and take his vitamin pills instead. Several of them died. It’s an important story, which shows journalists are of some use after all. But the Guardian stood to lose hundreds of thousands of pounds for having the impudence to publish it.
Simon Singh, one of Britain’s best science writers is being sued for daring to mention that chiropractors have little or no evidence that their mumbo jumbo works.
I too have had my fair share of threats from people like the Society of Homeopaths who cannot stand their deluded practices being criticised.
It requires a simple fix to get this right. The burden of proof needs to lie with the claimant. If you want to sue for libel you should have to show that the words were indeed libelous and are malicious and untrue.
Ask your MP where they stand on this issue. The government did promise to sort this mess out. Ask why this is not happening? As Monbiot concludes,
This autumn the English branch of PEN, which defends the freedom to write, will launch a campaign against our libel law. But where are the rest of you? Where are the petitions, the public protests, the lobbies of parliament? Why is this 13th-century law still permitted to stifle legitimate dissent? Wake up, Britain: your freedoms are disappearing into the pockets of barristers and billionaires.
You can find out details of your MP here: TheyWorkForYou.com. It only takes a quick email.
Brilliant, brilliant idea LCN – I’m going to email mine ASAP. Thank you for posting this.
Just emailed my MP. Very good idea!
Excellent plan, Duckman.
Incidentally, Devil’s Kitchen had some interesting stuff from the Ministry of Truth blog about web hosts being nominal publishers of third party content (that might have been relevant to your blog not so long ago). Here.
It is quite right idea! And it is necessary to do it for sure, because it is an action of international importance too. Our Russian parliamentarians (and not only our ones) started to think sometimes about elaboration of libel law. It is possible this law could be useful, but (!!!) if its text is clever and righteous! But there are some stupid “parrots” and “monkeys” among them, who likes to mimic most bad world examples 🙁 It is important to abolish your obsolete Britain libel laws. Then the stupid heads among our parliamentarians (and in other countries) will lose one of bad examples for their “parroting” and “playing the ape”.
Moreover, it is known, that rich villains from different countries come to Britain to use your libel laws in their legal wars against good people. Certainly, it is necessary to deprive them of this possibility – to take away this weapon from them.
Anyone had a response from their MP? I got an email saying “I appreciate the point you make but I actually believe they are probably about right. We need to balance the desire for free spech and comment with the need to protect people from having their reputation falsely destroyed. Due to potential costs it is often difficult for members of the public to defend themsemves against false allegations.”
He seems to miss the point that due to potential costs it is often difficult for members of the public to make factual points or to have their say. Defending a spurious libel case could be costly indeed. It cost the Guardian £500,000 to defend themselves against Matthias Rath and hopefully recompense will be forthcoming, but not everyone will get their costs paid. It would be a shame if people were unable to responsibly exercise their right to free speech because of restrictive libel laws placing the onus on them to prove they haven’t defamed someone.