Libel laws petition
THE LIBEL Reform Campaign (LRC) has a petition on its website calling for "major reform" of the English libel laws, probably the worst in the world from a journalist's point of view. "Our" libel laws - and the legal fees involved, 140 times more expensive than for libel cases in mainland Europe - are inhibiting debate and freedom of speech, and discouraging journalists from tackling important subjects.
English libel has led to London becoming the world's "libel tourism" capital. The LRC site has a "Who has been silenced" list of some of the more surreal London libel judgments recently - including £50,000 plus (considerable) costs awarded against the Ukrainian website Obozrevatel, which has only a few dozen readers in the UK.
Justice minister Jack Straw is reported to be looking into possible changes to the law regarding the contingency fee arrangements that have helped drive up legal fees for libel cases to today's astronomical heights. We hope to have a report soon on discussions underway at the European Union level on determining which territory's courts have jurisdiction in cases of libel alleged to have occured in cyberspace.