International NGOs to UK government: Protect us, strengthen libel law reforms
60 non-governmental organisations from all over the world, including about 20 members of the Civic Solidarity Platform, signed a letter calling for England libel law reform, including limiting corporations ability to use libel law to silence civil society critics.
The campaign is coordinated by Index on Censorship and the International Freedom of Expression Exchange network. The letter was addressed to Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband:
"We the undersigned represent free expression and civil society organisations from across the globe. We welcome the UK government's attempt to revise English libel law, but remain concerned that the legislation fails to deliver the reform that was promised in their election manifestos and in the May 2010 coalition agreement. English libel law has been shown to have a chilling effect on free speech around the world. We believe that the defamation bill will address this in part by tackling libel tourism, where foreign claimants have brought libel actions to the English courts against defendants who are neither British nor resident in this country. However, the bill as it stands would not have prevented any of the libel cases that we have seen over the last few years against journalists, scientists, doctors and activists who have spoken out on issues that are in the public interest.
We call on the government to include a strong public interest defence in the defamation bill to allow free and open debate in the UK and abroad. In addition, restrictions must be placed on corporations to limit their ability to use libel law to bully and silence their critics. The UN human rights committee has warned that unduly restrictive libel law in the UK could have a negative impact on the right to freedom of expression worldwide.
We believe it is of the utmost importance that the government delivers reform that protects freedom of speech both in the UK and abroad."
The list of signatories can be found here.