Posted by: benk1988 | November 10, 2009

Time For a Change to Libel Law

Two leading campaign groups have today called for the complete upheavel of current libel laws amid growing concerns that freedom of speech is becoming ever more endangered. Both the Index of Censorship and the English PEN are challenging many facets of the current restrictions and have set out new ideas to address the growing trend in foreign celebrities coming to London to sue due to the nature of our censorship. 

REPORT RECOMMENDATIONS (www.bbc.co.uk)

Capping libel damages at £10,000 and making an apology the chief remedy
Shifting the burden of proof so claimants have to demonstrate damage
Preventing cases from being heard in London unless 10% of copies of the offending publication are circulated in England
Stopping large and medium-sized companies from being able to launch libel actions unless they can prove malicious falsehood
Making some internet comments exempt as part of efforts to reflect the arrival of the world wide web
Establishing a libel tribunal, along the lines of employment tribunals, as an alternative to expensive full court trials
Reducing the prohibitive cost of  
Strengthening the public interest defence and expanding the definition of fair comment.
If these recommendations were put into effect it would revolutionise modern journalism. Each of these points would mean that no longer would writers have to worry about causing the slightest offence and they would be immune from prosecution unless the claimant could actually prove that damage has been caused. Take today for example, Peter Andre has been awarded ‘substantial’ damages in London’s High Court against Now Magazine after claims he wasn’t ‘a loving father’. How can this be justified when both his estranged wife, Jordan and the former pop star have courted the media constantly since they met on reality TV show I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.  

Yes admittedly he does not appear to me to be a particularly bad father and it can not be nice to read that about yourself but what actually physical damage has he suffered? What justification does he have for receiving financial compensation? Unless he means to donate this money to charity and unless these laws change many celebrities will continue to see these ‘awards’ as another income and will continue to paw through the pages of every publication looking for the slightest insult on which to base a claim of libel.

 

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