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A shake-up in libel laws

Proposed changes to libel laws aim to restore balance to a system which has seemed skewed in favour of the plaintiff:

“The right to speak freely and debate issues without fear of censure is a vital cornerstone of a democratic society,” said Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke.

“In recent years though, the increased threat of costly libel actions has begun to have a chilling effect on scientific and academic debate, and investigative journalism.”

Civil rights group Liberty has welcomed the reforms, and hopes that they could ‘help stem frivolous or abusive threats of libel and prevent powerful interests coming to Britain to shut down criticism and debate’.

The Libel Reform Campaign also welcomed the steps taken by the government, but urged them to push the reforms still further, calling for:

a stronger public interest defence

an end to the ability of corporations to sue in libel

more protection for web-hosts and internet service providers from liability for the words of others

Nick Clegg reflects on the need for a change in the law here.

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