The recently tabled amendment to the UK Defamation Bill risks eroding progress towards libel laws in the UK that would protect freedom of expression and public interest campaigning, said Global Witness today.
Conservative MP and libel lawyer Sir Edward Garnier, tabled an amendment to the UK Defamation Bill late last week which, if accepted, would remove the clause requiring corporations to demonstrate financial loss before bringing a libel claim.
“The vast imbalance in resources between corporations and campaigning organisations means that under current laws they are able to stifle proper reporting of public interest issues with the threat of expensive and often bullying libel claims,” said Charmian Gooch, Director of Global Witness. “This amendment would undermine a key proposed restriction on corporations’ ability to silence critics.”
The amendment has been tabled ahead of the crucial final House of Commons debate, scheduled for Tuesday 16th April.
The need for urgent reform of Britain’s out-of-date libel laws has been widely recognised by the three main political parties and hundreds of others including members of academia, the legal profession, civil society organisations and the press. Global Witness has continuously called for an end to libel laws being misused to suppress the work of campaigners, journalists and others who report in the public interest.
“This is a misguided effort to water down the Defamation Bill,” continued Gooch. “If this amendment is allowed to pass, it will help perpetuate a status quo where those who speak out about corruption and other wrongdoing risk facing ruinous libel claims.”
Global Witness calls on all parties to reject Sir Edward Garnier’s tabled amendment tomorrow and ensure that the UK’s libel laws include a strong public interest defence.
Notes to editors:
For more information, please contact Simon Taylor, (+44) 07957 142 121, or Andrea Pattison, (+44) 07703 671 308.
Global Witness supports the Libel Reform Campaign - http://www.libelreform.org/