Libel reform: more thoughts

More reaction to the government's thoughts on reforming the law of libel - this time from the Libel Reform Campaign, a coalition of English PEN, Index on Censorship and Sense About Science.

They are rather less enthused than Lord Lester - and believe that the government's initial response to the Draft Defamation Bill falls short of what is needed.

In particular, they highlight the lack of a "new effective statutory public interest defence". Instead, they say, government is only proposing minor changes to an already complex, unwieldy and expensive defence, called "Reynolds Privilege".

They are disappointed that there are no restrictions on the ability of corporations and associations to use libel laws suppress criticism and manage their brand.

And they want a stronger system to "strike out" trivial or inappropriate claims at an early stage.

They insist the government could do much more to prevent encroachments on freedom of speech. Former Lib Dem MP Dr Evan Harris, who is now policy advisor to the Libel Reform Campaign, said: "We need reform that not only provides clear and effective defences to frivolous and chilling libel actions but also sufficiently high hurdles before people are dragged into expensive court actions so that vexatious or trivial libel suits are deterred."

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