I have written previously about Sense About Science and their campaign to get the UKs Libel Laws reformed so that scientists can write freely without fear of being sued for libel.
Sense About Science have now joined up with English PEN and Index on Censorship to form The Libel Reform campaign and need 100,000 signatures to present to MPs before the political parties write their manifestos for the upcoming election.
If you don’t like in UK, you are probably wondering why you should care about their libel laws.
Simon Singh, a science writer who is currently being sued for libel, has put forward these reasons are they are fairly compelling.
(a) English libel laws have been condemned by the UN Human Rights Committee.
(b) These laws gag scientists, bloggers and journalists who want to discuss matters of genuine public interest (and public health!).
(c) Our laws give rise to libel tourism, whereby the rich and the powerful (Saudi billionaires, Russian oligarchs and overseas corporations) come to London to sue writers because English libel laws are so hostile to responsible journalism. (In fact, it is exactly because English libel laws have this global impact that we welcome signatories to the petition from around the world.)
(d) Vested interests can use their resources to bully and intimidate those who seek to question them. The cost of a libel trial in England is 100 times more expensive than the European average and typically runs to over £1 million.
(e) Three separate ongoing libel cases involve myself and two medical researchers raising concerns about three medical treatments. We face losing £1 million each. In future, why would anyone else raise similar concerns? If these health matters are not reported, then the public is put at risk.
If you are a blogger in Australia and you write a critical article about any topic, then the subject of your criticism can sue you for libel in the UK since your blog is able to be read by anyone living in the UK. This can be done despite the fact that neither you nor your subject actually live in the UK. Now, that is scary stuff and is why all bloggers need to get behind this campaign.
If you are a blogger, please spread the word about this campaign. Post your links to the comments and I will do a wrap up post featuring all the links so people can go check them out. If you aren’t a blogger and sign the petition, please let me know so I can give you a shout out for being truly awesome.