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UK: Government promises defamation reform but backslides on expression and surveillance

UK: Government promises defamation reform but backslides on expression and
surveillance

_ARTICLE 19 welcomes the promise of defamation reform in this week's

Queen's Speech. However, we are concerned that a number of other bills

included will unduly restrict freedom of expression in the UK._

The Queen's Speech, in which the Queen reads the government's legislative

agenda for the next parliamentary period in front of both Houses of

Parliament, was this year delivered on 9 May and included a long awaited

Defamation Bill as well as:

* a Crimes and Courts Bill

* a Justice and Security Bill

* a Communication Bill.

The other bills have the potential to interfere with the rights to freedom

of expression, information and privacy.

_Defamation Bill_

This Bill will make it more difficult for dubious defamation and libel suits

to go forward and to succeed. Under the proposed legislation, applicants

will have to prove that they have sustained _serious_ harm: currently, it is

enough just to demonstrate the _potential_ for substantial harm.

Other measures include:

* limiting “libel tourism”

* increasing protection of the media for any publication in the public

interest

* providing better safeguards for operators of websites hosting

third-party content

* offering greater protection from defamation and libel suits to

researchers and academic authors.

ARTICLE 19 endorses these proposed reforms to the current defamation laws:

* the public will have greater freedom of expression

* those who prove that they have sustained harm will receive adequate

protection and compensation

* the media will be able to operate more efficiently and with more

scrutiny on issues in the public interest

* officials and authorities will be more accountable

* website operators will received better protections for content created

by their users and other 3^rd parties. Their inclusion is an important

step towards taking the changing media landscape into account.

_Crimes and Courts__ Bill_

ARTICLE 19 calls for this Bill to be carefully reviewed. It proposes

allowing TV cameras into the courtroom under certain circumstances in order

to increase transparency in the judicial system. It will be crucial to

ensure that the ways of deciding which proceedings can be filmed and

broadcast balance carefully the need to protect witnesses and fair trials

against open justice principles.

The Bill also proposes the creation of a National Crime Agency (NCA).

ARTICLE 19 recommends that:

* the NCA should be transparent and subject to the Freedom of Information

Act (FOIA) 2000

* any exemptions from the FOIA should be fully justifiable through an

independent process. Currently, the Serious Organised Crime Agency has

been exempted from FOIA, but the NCA has a wider remit covering many

traditional policing agencies.

ARTICLE 19 welcomes the reform of the selection process of judges and the

overhaul of processes within reform courts and tribunals. These changes aim

at:

* greater efficiency, diversity and transparency

* a greater understanding of the judicial processes

They should be implemented throughout the UK.

_Justice and Security Bill_

Under this Bill, courts will be given extended powers to hold closed

proceedings when considering sensitive information related to national

security. This evidence will be shared only with:

* the government

* the judge

* the security agencies

* a state-appointed special advocate.

ARTICLE 19 is concerned that:

* the use of these closed proceedings undermines defendants' right to a

fair trial

* the proceedings pose a serious threat to open justice

* the processes for deciding if information could be deemed sensitive are

poorly defined

* there is a likelihood of closed proceedings being used to shield the

government from public scrutiny.

Such closed legal proceedings constitute a serious interference with the

public's right to freedom of information and undermines the principles of

open justice and fair trials.

_Communications Bill_

ARTICLE 19 considers this piece of legislation to be highly problematic

because it orders all Communications Service Providers (including Internet

Service Providers and mobile phone operators) to save and store for one year

details of all communications made by all persons in the UK..

Although communications surveillance has a role to play in combating crime,

it should only be used:

* with a court warrant

* when strictly necessary.

ARTICLE 19 is concerned that:

* the stockpiling of information from every person in the UK without any

suspicion constitutes an invasion of privacy which is neither

proportionate nor necessary.

this proposal is more reminiscent of an authoritarian government that

rejects human rights than a democracy that is subject to the European

Convention on Human Rights.

* the proposal will substantially affect the right to free expression, as

it discourages people from visiting controversial sites and makes it

possible to identity confidential sources of journalists

* the proposed safeguards

do not justify the initial surveillance and

stockpiling of data, particularly as data security is poor among police

agencies and private companies such as mobile phone operators, as the

current Leveson Inquiry has revealed.

ARTICLE 19 therefore calls on the government and parliament to reject this

bill, as was done in the last Parliament. _ _

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_About ARTICLE 19 _

ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works globally

to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression. It takes its name

from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which

guarantees free speech.

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Tel: +44 20 7324 2500

Fax: +44 20 7490 0566

Email: [email protected]

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UK: Government promises defamation reform but backslides on expression and surveillance
ARTICLE 19 welcomes the promise of defamation reform in this week's Queen's Speech. However, we are concerned that a number of other bills included will unduly restrict freedom of expression in the UK.

The Queen's Speech, in which the Queen reads the government's legislative agenda for the next parliamentary period in front of both Houses of Parliament, was this year delivered on 9 May and included a long awaited Defamation Bill as well as:

a Crimes and Courts Bill

a Justice and Security Bill

a Communication Bill.

The other bills have the potential to interfere with the rights to freedom of expression, information and privacy.

Defamation Bill

This Bill will make it more difficult for dubious defamation and libel suits to go forward and to succeed. Under the proposed legislation, applicants will have to prove that they have sustained  serious  harm: currently, it is enough just to demonstrate the  potential  for substantial harm.

 Other measures include:

limiting “libel tourism”

increasing protection of the media for any publication in the public interest

providing better safeguards for operators of websites hosting third-party content

offering greater protection from defamation and libel suits to researchers and academic authors.

ARTICLE 19 endorses these proposed reforms to the current defamation laws:

the public will have greater freedom of expression

those who prove that they have sustained harm will receive adequate protection and compensation

the media will be able to operate more efficiently and with more scrutiny on issues in the public interest

officials and authorities will be more accountable

website operators will received better protections for content created by their users and other 3 rd  parties. Their inclusion is an important step towards taking the changing media landscape into account.

Crimes and Courts  Bill

ARTICLE 19 calls for this Bill to be carefully reviewed. It proposes allowing TV cameras into the courtroom under certain circumstances in order to increase transparency in the judicial system. It will be crucial to ensure that the ways of deciding which proceedings can be filmed and broadcast balance carefully the need to protect witnesses and fair trials against open justice principles.

The Bill also proposes the creation of a National Crime Agency (NCA). ARTICLE 19 recommends that:

the NCA should be transparent and subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2000

any exemptions from the FOIA should be fully justifiable through an independent process. Currently, the Serious Organised Crime Agency has been exempted from FOIA, but the NCA has a wider remit covering many traditional policing agencies.

ARTICLE 19 welcomes the reform of the selection process of judges and the overhaul of processes within reform courts and tribunals. These changes aim at:

greater efficiency, diversity and transparency

a greater understanding of the judicial processes

They should be implemented throughout the UK.

Justice and Security Bill

Under this Bill, courts will be given extended powers to hold closed proceedings when considering sensitive information related to national security. This evidence will be shared only with:

the government

the judge

the security agencies

a state-appointed special advocate.

ARTICLE 19 is concerned that:

the use of these closed proceedings undermines defendants' right to a fair trial

the proceedings pose a serious threat to open justice

the processes for deciding if information could be deemed sensitive are poorly defined

there is a likelihood of closed proceedings being used to shield the government from public scrutiny.

Such closed legal proceedings constitute a serious interference with the public's right to freedom of information and undermines the principles of open justice and fair trials.

Communications Bill

ARTICLE 19 considers this piece of legislation to be highly problematic because it orders all Communications Service Providers (including Internet Service Providers and mobile phone operators) to save and store for one year details of all communications made by all persons in the UK..

Although communications surveillance has a role to play in combating crime, it should only be used:

with a court warrant

when strictly necessary.

ARTICLE 19 is concerned that:

the stockpiling of information from every person in the UK without any suspicion constitutes an invasion of privacy which is neither proportionate nor necessary.

this proposal is more reminiscent of an authoritarian government that rejects human rights than a democracy that is subject to the European Convention on Human Rights.

the proposal will substantially affect the right to free expression, as it discourages people from visiting controversial sites and makes it possible to identity confidential sources of journalists

the proposed safeguards  do not justify the initial surveillance and  stockpiling of data, particularly as data security is poor among police agencies and private companies such as mobile phone operators, as the current Leveson Inquiry has revealed.

ARTICLE 19 therefore calls on the government and parliament to reject this bill, as was done in the last Parliament.   

Friend on Facebook

Follow on Twitter

Forward to a Friend

For press queries and interview requests, please contact the press office:
T: +44 (0) 20 7324 2510
E: [email protected]

M: +44 (0) 7515 828 939

About ARTICLE 19

ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works globally to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression. It takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees free speech.

  follow on Twitter

friend on Facebook

forward to a friend  

You are receiving this email because you signed up during an event or online and requested updates on freedom of expression and information. 

We can be contacted at:
ARTICLE 19 60 Farringdon Road London , England

EC1R 3GA United Kingdom Add us to your address book
Tel: +44 20 7324 2500
Fax: +44 20 7490 0566
Email: [email protected]

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License .

ARTICLE 19, Registered Charity no. 327421, a Company Limited by Guarantee registered in England and Wales no. 2097222.

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