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ARTICLE 19 provides submission to inquiry into press standards, libel and privacy laws

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - The following is a 19 January 2009 ARTICLE 19 press release:

United Kingdom: Submission on Libel Law Reform

ARTICLE 19 has provided a Submission to the Inquiry into press standards, privacy and libel being undertaken by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the UK Parliament. The Committee is looking into possible reform of the UK's libel and privacy laws. The ARTICLE 19 Submission identifies problems in four key areas, namely jurisdiction over cases, standards of liability, damages and costs.

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee announced on 18 November 2008 that it was conducting an inquiry into press standards, privacy and libel, and calling for submissions. Among other things, the Committee is looking at the relationship between press reporting and the UK libel laws and the impact of conditional fee arrangements (no-win no-fee arrangements with lawyers) on press freedom.

The ARTICLE 19 Submission highlights a number of key issues in relation to UK libel law, with a particular focus on the impact of these laws on advocacy NGOs. Among other things, the Submission recommends:
- to prevent the UK from remaining a 'libel tourism' destination, rules should be put in place so that UK courts may only consider defamation cases where there is a substantial connection between the statements in question and the UK.
- defamation defendants should benefit from a more generous 'reasonable publication' defence, in line with the practice in many other democracies.
- more stringent limitations should be placed on defamation damage awards and more emphasis should be given in this context to non-pecuniary remedies.
- conditional fee arrangements in defamation cases should either be prohibited altogether or subjected to stringent conditions.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the UK Parliament to take the necessary steps to give effect to these recommendations.

The Submission is available in English at: http://tinyurl.com/atstf9

For further information on "libel tourism", see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/93931

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