The first Parliamentary debate concerning the reform of libel laws takes place in the House of Lords today (Friday 9th of July). The British Humanist Association (BHA) has briefed Lords ahead of the debate to stress the need for improvements in the current system.
The Defamation Bill takes the first step in addressing flaws within the libel system by seeking to protect individuals and organisations that report on activities of public concern. It also compels claimants to justify their claims by substantiating the harm or financial loss an accusation has caused them, and also encourages speedier proceedings to reduce costs.
Campaigns Officer Pepper Harrow, explains, ‘Under the current laws, journalists, human rights campaigners and scientists are effectively censored from conducting and reporting enquires and analysis on a wide range of subjects due to the threat of hugely expensive legal action.’
‘As a supporter of the Libel Reform Campaign, the BHA believes that freedom of speech is a prerequisite for an open and democratic society. Unreasonable restrictions on expression undermine debate and progress. We believe this Bill goes some way to redressing the balance, and will help to foster a culture of open inquiry, where issues may be resolved through debate in the public sphere, rather than through drawn out and costly legal proceedings.’
For further comment or information, contact Pepper Harow on 020 7462 4992
The British Humanist Association (BHA) is the national charity representing and supporting the non-religious and campaigning for an end to religious privilege and discrimination based on religion or belief.