UK government plans major review of libel law

The coalition government has unveiled plans for a major review of libel law in a bid to better protect freedom of speech and expression in the media and the research sector, and to cut down on “libel tourism”. The Ministry of Justice Friday announced it is to publish a draft defamation bill that will be put out for consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny in the new year. In a nod to the impetus that has developed behind the libel reform campaign, the government said it is seeking to introduce a bill as soon as parliamentary time can be found following the consultation process. “We need investigative journalism and scientific research to be able to flourish without the fear of unfounded, lengthy and costly defamation and libel cases being brought against them,” said the justice minister, Lord McNally. “We are committed to reforming the law on defamation and want to focus on ensuring that a right and a fair balance is struck between freedom of expression and the protection of reputation.” It also said that the review would be looking at “options for addressing concerns around libel tourism”, where foreign claimants bring their cases to English courts specifically to take advantage of more favourable defamation laws.


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