“The Committee is concerned…”

August 12th, 2008 § 0 comments

The UK has been criticised by the UN Human Rights Commitee for it’s libel law.
It gets the finger wagging for libel practice, amongst a fair bit of other stuff (I’m at work now so I’ll read it properly later), in the report in to the implementation of the International Covenent on Civil and Political Rights.
The report is here (and also [[download:ccpr.c.gbr.co.6.doc:text:here:]]):

25. The Committee is concerned that the State party’s practical application of the law of libel has served to discourage critical media reporting on matters of serious public interest, adversely affecting the ability of scholars and journalists to publish their work, including through the phenomenon known as “libel tourism.” The advent of the internet and the international distribution of foreign media also creates the danger that a State party’s unduly restrictive libel law will affect freedom of expression world-wide on matters of valid public interest. (art.19)

The State party should re-examine its technical doctrines of libel law, and consider the utility of a so-called “public figure” exception, requiring proof by the plaintiff of actual malice in order to go forward on actions concerning reporting on public officials and prominent public figures, as well as limiting the requirement that defendants reimburse a plaintiff’s lawyers fees and costs regardless of scale, including Conditional Fee Agreements and so-called “Success Fees”, especially insofar as these may have forced defendant publications to settle without airing valid defences. The ability to resolve cases through enhanced pleading requirements (e.g., requiring a plaintiff to make some preliminary showing of falsity and absence of ordinary journalistic standards) might also be considered.


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