The oppressive nature of UK libel law really should be a matter of great concern to all rationalists, here and abroad. It is extremely hostile to writers, and unreasonably friendly towards powerful corporations and individuals who want to silence their critics. Our UK friend Simon Singh has – remarkably – won a court decision recently that encourages us to support his efforts to bring about a change in that law (more information about which can be found here). He fought the chiropractic profession over there when they sued him for damages for what they said was libel, and now the JREF is asking that our readers help to promote a move to improve the UK law.
This English libel law is particularly dangerous for bloggers, who are generally not backed by publishers, and who can end up being sued, regardless of where the blog was posted. The Internet allows bloggers to reach a global audience, but it also allows the High Court in London to have a global reach. The campaign we ask you to support is not calling for the removal of libel law, but for a fair libel law which would allow writers a reasonable opportunity to express their opinions and then defend them without undue fear of onerous, unfair reprisal.
The British Government has now made a commitment to draft a bill that will reform libel, but it is essential that bloggers and their readers send a strong signal to politicians so that they follow through on this promise. You can do this by joining Simon – and me – and over 50,000 others who have already signed the libel reform petition at http://www.libelreform.org/sign
Please help in this worthwhile campaign. Though we in the USA are not specifically affected, the whole rationalist/skeptic community needs to rally and be heard on the matter. You can sign the petition, whatever your nationality and wherever you live. Indeed, signatories from overseas serve to remind British politicians that the English libel law is out of step with the rest of the free world.
Take a few minutes and sign up, and please encourage friends, family and colleagues to sign up. Moreover, if you have your own blog, you can join hundreds of other bloggers by posting this blog on your own site. There’s a real chance here that bloggers could help change the most censorious libel law in the democratic world.
As Simon himself says, “We must speak out to defend free speech. Please sign the petition for libel reform at http://www.libelreform.org/sign”
Thank you, folks.