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Background

Launch of the Keep Libel Laws out of Science campaign

Keep Libel Laws Out of Science

The Keep Libel Laws out of Science campaign was launched following the use of the English libel laws to silence critical discussion of medical practice and scientific evidence discouraging debate, denying the public access to the full picture and encouraging the use of the courts to silence critics. In October 2008 The British Chiropractic Association sued Simon Singh for libel. The scientific community would have preferred that it had defended its position about chiropractic through an open discussion in the medical literature or mainstream media.

On 4th June 2009 Simon Singh announced that he was applying to appeal the judge’s recent pre-trial ruling in this case, in conjunction with the launch of this support campaign to defend the right of the public to read the views of scientists and writers.

Over 20,000 people from the worlds of science, journalism, publishing, comedy, literature and law signed up to Keep Libel Laws out of Science and call for an urgent review of English law of libel. Supporters include Stephen Fry, Lord Rees of Ludlow, Ricky Gervais, Martin Amis, Jonathan Ross, James Randi, Professor Richard Dawkins, Penn & Teller and Professor Sir David King, former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government.

See coverage of the Keep Libel Laws out of Science campaign

At the press conference for the launch of the campaign, Simon Singh said:

“ The British Chiropractic Association’s decision to sue me for libel has been an enormous drain on my time and energy. However, the support that I have received from family, friends, readers, bloggers, scientists, journalists and those who care about free speech has been incredible, and it has played a crucial role in my decision to continue defending my article and fighting the libel action.

“ Everyone agrees that there is something fundamentally wrong with the English libel laws, which have a chilling effect on journalists, whether they write about science or anything else, whether they live in Britain or anywhere else. Hence, I am delighted that so many individuals and organisations have come together to launch a campaign with Sense About Science to highlight how the English libel laws clash with the right to discuss science in a frank and fair way.”

Also speaking at the press conference:

Tracey Brown, Managing Director of Sense About Science: “This goes to the heart of what we all do. We suspect that the huge level of support that has greeted the statement indicates a much wider frustration about these unfair laws and the damage they do to a free debate. As we move decisively away from a time when many scientists did not deign to share their reasoning and views with the public, with this case and other recent libel actions, we meet with the problem that they don’t dare to. We urge everyone who cares about their right to read what scientists really think - including robust criticism of others’ evidence - to join the signatories and push for parliamentary reform.”

Edzard Ernst, Professor of Complementary Medicine, Co Author with Singh of ‘Trick or Treatment’: “In healthcare, disagreements over evidence happen all the time, but it is wholly inappropriate to resort to personal attacks or the law courts. To resolve them we must employ open discussions about the scientific facts. If this process is bypassed, we jeopardize free speech and medical progress.

Nick Cohen, Observer columnist, who said: “For years, rich and dubious characters, from Ukrainian oligarchs to the managers of Icelandic banks have flocked to London to use our libel laws because English law is stacked against free speech. The chilling effect on legitimate public debate has been so severe it has attracted international censure. It would be scandalous if the hounding of Simon Singh were to lead to those same chill winds freezing scientific discourse.”

 

Press Coverage:Keep Libel Laws out of Science

 

Today programme, Radio 4 From 1:36:30 here

Daily Mail ‘Libel tourism’ gags free speech warns doctor being sued by U.S. firm

The Times Let’s put an end to the disgrace of libel tourism

The Times Cardiologist will fight libel case ‘to defend free speech’

The Scotsman Libel under a microscope

The Sunday Times Jack Straw pledges action to end libel tourism

The Sunday Times Think tank: The way to publish and not be damned

Time Magazine A Crackdown Coming on British Libel Suits?

The Independent Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: How libel laws silence our democracy

The Economist A city named sue

The Sunday Times Libel laws stifle health doubts

Channel 4 news Libel fear for doctors and scientists

The Sunday Times England’s libel laws don’t just gag me, they blindfold you

BBC Newsnight

The New York Times Cracking the Spine of Libel

The Guardian An intrepid, ragged band of bloggers

The Independent The libel laws that threaten to stifle scientific debate

BMJ Keep Libel Laws out of Science

New Humanist Bogus treatment

Daily Mail Back ‘cures’, a brave scientist and an epic court battle: How Britain’s libel laws are threatening free speech

SEED Magazine On behalf of Simon Singh

The Sunday Times Think tank: Costly libel suits are stifling science

Wall Street Journal Britain chills free speech

Professor Chris French in The Guardian ‘Witch hunt’ forces chiropractors to take down their websites

Nature Unjust burdens of proof

The Economist A happy cacophony

Times Higher Education Win or lose, the cost of fighting a libel suit chills science and journalism

BMJ Science in court

Channel 4 News Watch here

Daily Mail Celebrities back writer sued by chiropractors

The Guardian Science writer Simon Singh to appeal against chiropractic libel judgement

The Times Review of libel law called for by comedians

The Independent Silenced, the writer who dared to say chiropractice is bogus

Daily Telegraph Stephen Fry and Ricky Gervais defend science writer sued for libel

Nature news Science writer will appeal libel case ruling

Times Higher Education Singh plans to appeal ruling in libel case