Libel law: select committee recommends reforms

<p>The Libel Reform Campaign led by English PEN, Index on Censorship and Sense Against Science has welcomed a report on libel law issued this week (24th February) by a cross-party group of MPs.</p><p>The report is from the culture, media and sport select committee and has no legislative role but reflects the mood of the House of Commons. The committee criticised &ldquo;libel tourism&rdquo;, called for a stronger public interest defence in libel law, and recommended reductions in the costs lawyers can<br />claim from the losing party.</p><p>Director of English PEN Jonathan Heawood said the report had endorsed some of points the Campaign had been arguing for. But he added: &ldquo;It&rsquo;s now over to the government to act. What we need now is root and branch reform which addresses the big question of what libel law is for in the 21st century. </p><p>&quot;We need to simplify the whole process so both claimants and defendants in the publishing business know where they stand and decisions can be made based on sound editorial judgement rather than the fear of being financially crippled.&rdquo;</p><p>In a separate development, a Court of Appeal hearing was held yesterday (23rd February) in the significant libel case involving writer Simon Singh and The British Chiropractic Association, with a judgement expected in six to eight weeks. </p><p>Meanwhile the Libel Reform Campaign is holding a fundraiser, The Big Libel Gig, on Sunday 14th March at the Palace Theatre in London, with comedians Dara O&rsquo;Briain, Marcus Brigstocke, Ed Byrne and Shappi Khorsandi.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p>