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'The Ugly Truth'

by Tracey Brown, director of Sense About Science

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Measuring government transparency

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Launch of the Libel Reform Campaign

In December 2009, Sense About Science, Index on Censorship and English PEN launched the Libel Reform Campaign

Sign the petition at www.libelreform.org

launch of Libel Reform CampaignOver 20 000 people signed the Keep Libel Laws out of Science Campaign after its launch in June 2009 to protest against the silencing of critical discussion, medical practice and scientific evidence.

In December 2009, English PEN and Index on Censorship wrote the ‘Free Speech Is Not For Sale’ report to look at the impact of English libel law on freedom of expression.

 Our three organisations joined together in December 2009 as a coalition to campaign for major libel law reform.

 On Wednesday 9th December 2009, comedians, scientists and journalists came together at the Law Society to tell the public to sign a petition, calling on politicians to support a bill for major reform of the libel laws in the interest of fairness and free speech. They highlighted that for the first time in over a century we have an opportunity to change our unfair and repressive libel laws.

Dara O BriainSimon Singh

Watch Dara O Briain, Dave Gorman, Professor Ray Tallis, Simon Singh, Nick Ross and many others sign the libel reform petition at our launch event.

See coverage here

On Thursday 10th December 2009, academics, editors, human rights activists and writers went to Parliament to tell MPs and Peers what the public don’t get to hear under the English libel laws. They spoke about the impacts of English libel laws on academic integrity, and its chilling effect on medical and scientific debate and discussion.

Sign petition at www.libelreform.org

Tracey Brown, Managing Director, Sense About Science: “We have to show politicians that small tinkering with the libel laws won’t do - we need a real public interest defence. Otherwise, there will be more cases like those against Simon Singh and Peter Wilmshurst, and the libel laws will continue to be the tools of well-funded bullies who want to silence criticism.”

Jonathan Heawood, Director of English PEN: “Our libel laws allow people accused of funding terrorism or dumping toxic waste in Africa to silence their critics whilst ‘super-injunctions’ stop the public from even knowing that such allegations exist. We need to reform our libel laws now, and that’s why we’re launching a national campaign to persuade our politicians to do so.”

John Kampfner, the CEO of Index on Censorship: “If we don’t act we’re at risk of becoming a global pariah. There are US States who view English libel law as so damaging to free speech they have passed laws to effectively block the decisions of English judges. Our report is an important milestone in modernising our antiquated and chilling approach to free expression.”

Read why these comedians, scientists and editors signed up for libel reform.

Read some of our volunteers telling us why they wanted to help on the campaign.

 

Press Coverage:

 

Guardian Online Keep up demand for libel reform

Daily Mail  Death of free speech: Is Britain becoming the censorship capital of the world?

The Sunday Times  My week: Simon Singh

Solicitors Journal Power of the pen

New Statesman  Campaign spotlight: Libel bashing

The Daily Politics Comedian Robin Ince on libel laws in England and Wales

The Sunday Times  Libel laws stifle jokes by Alexei Sayle and Ricky Gervais

The Observer  My week: Simon Singh

The Guardian  Take on the libel bullies

BBC NEWS Comic Dara O Briain says libel laws ‘quash dissent’

The Times   Scientists urge reform of ‘lethal’ libel law

The Mirror  Dara O Briain wants libel law reform

The Independent  Comic Dara O’Briain lambasts ‘bully’ libel law.

THE  UCL provost: libel law is stifling academic freedoms

New Scientist blog Campaign to reform English libel law launched

Press Gazette  Libel law can kill - reform it now.

Press Association Dara O’Briain wants libel reform