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Sunday, January 9, 2011
UK Lib-Dems push for end of “libel tourism”
By Andrew Walden @ 4:29 PM :: 8205 Views :: Energy, Environment, National News, Ethics, World News, Family

Editor’s note: Nick Clegg, Deputy PM of Britain in a Jan 7 speech calls for a total overhaul of “embarrassing” UK libel laws.  Threats of libel actions in UK courts were used to silence coverage of the financial connection between Barack Obama, Tony Rezko, and Iraqi ex-Baathist billionaire and lifelong Saddam Hussein associate Nadhmi Auchi during the 2008 campaign.  Hawai’i Free Press was one of the few news sources anywhere on Earth willing to defy the threats. 

In July, 2010 the US Congress passed HR2765 the SPEECH Act, protecting US residents from the imposition of UK libel proceedings which have also been used by Islamists to silence US-based terror funding researchers. 

Now the British Parliament, led by a coalition of the Conservative Party and the Liberal-Democratic Party appears poised to put an end to laws which mean “academics and journalists are effectively bullied into silence.”

The following is excerpted from a January 7, 2011 Parliamentary speech by Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal-Democratic party and Deputy Prime Minister of Britain.  


by Nick Clegg (excerpted)

…There is a divide in politics between those of us who trust people and those who trust only government.

It is a line that divides progressive politics into two camps: old progressives, who value a powerful state, and new progressives, who value powerful citizens. Labour is on the wrong side of that divide.

Because, if you believe that the state has all the answers, you will always be pessimistic about citizens.

If you believe everything must be controlled from the centre you will protect central power at all costs. Even when that cost is basic British freedoms.

Liberals, and this Government, take a wholly different approach.

Liberals believe in the dispersal of power: in the raucous and unpredictable capacity of people and communities to make the right decisions for themselves.

We believe that social progress is driven not only by government, but also by confident, free individuals and communities, able to seize opportunities and take risks.

People cannot do that when the state is forever on their back; when their freedoms are denied and their autonomy is undermined.

So this Government is going to restore British liberties….


…In opposition my party made clear that we wanted to see English libel laws reformed.

Almost exactly a year ago I made that case in a speech to the Royal Society. I argued that English libel laws are having a chilling effect on scientific debate and investigative journalism.

Of course, individual citizens must be able to protect their reputations from false and damaging claims; and we can’t allow companies to be the victim of damaging, untrue and malicious statements.

But, equally, we want public-spirited academics and journalists to be fearless in publishing legitimate research. Not least when it relates to medical care or public safety.

The test of a free press is its capacity to unearth the truth, exposing charlatans and vested interests along the way.

It is simply not right when academics and journalists are effectively bullied into silence by the prospect of costly legal battles with wealthy individuals and big businesses.

Nor should foreign claimants be able to exploit these laws, bringing cases against foreign defendants here to our courts – even if the connection with England is tenuous.

It is a farce – and an international embarrassment - that the American Congress has felt it necessary to legislate to protect their citizens from our libel laws. 

This Government wants to restore our international reputation for free speech.

We will be publishing a draft defamation bill in the Spring. We intend to provide a new statutory defence for those speaking out in the public interest, whether they be big broadcasters or the humble blogger. And we intend to clarify the law around the existing defences of fair comment, and justification.

We believe claimants should not be able to threaten claims on what are essentially trivial grounds. We are going to tackle libel tourism. And we’re going to look at how the law can be updated to better reflect the realities of the internet.

Separately, we are also going to address the high costs of defamation proceedings. As part of that we have published a consultation paper on proposals by Lord Justice Jackson to reform civil litigation funding – and in particular no win no fee arrangements – to make costs more proportionate, more fair. 

Our aim is to turn English libel laws from an international laughing stock to an international blueprint….



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