Briefing Document / March 11, 2011

Joint letter to MPs outlines requirements for forthcoming libel reform

The government’s draft proposals for libel reform are due to be published on Tuesday 15th March. It is vital that these changes work to protect and strengthen reporting in the public interest.
An increasingly broad range of non-governmental organisations are investigating and publishing on matters in the public interest, operating in a sphere previously confined to the traditional media. It is crucial that the reformed laws account for this shift, and balance the protection of reputation and privacy against the need for organisations like Global Witness to expose the abusive and corrupt practices of individuals and governments. This balance is currently out of kilter in the UK, as rich and powerful people are able to use our privacy and libel laws to crush freedom of speech.

It is right to protect individuals from tabloid intrusions into their privacy- but it is equally important to allow matters  that are in the public interest to be reported. As such it is crucial that non-governmental organisations are free to publish responsibly on matters of public interest without fear of financial ruin. Our libel laws must therefore represent a much wider definition of the media than has previously been the case. The Libel Reform Campaign, of which Global Witness is a member, has written this open letter to MPs and and produced a document which sets out exactly what the new defamation bill should comprise in order to achieve this goal.