An email arrives from the libel reform campaign:
I’ve had an idea – an unusual idea, but I think it might just
As you know, England’s chilling libel laws need to be reformed. One
way to help achieve this is for 100,000 people to sign the petition
for libel reform before the political parties write their manifestos
for the election. We have 17,000 signatures, but we really need
100,000, and we need your help to get there.
My idea is simple: if everyone who has already signed up persuades
just one more person each week to sign the petition then we will reach
our goal within a month!
One person per week is all we need, but please spread the word as
much as you can. In fact, if you persuade 10 people to sign up then
email me (firstname.lastname@example.org
) and I promise to thank you by printing your name in my next book
… which I will start writing as soon as I have put my own libel case
behind me. I cannot say when this will be, but it is a very real
promise. My only caveat is that I will limit this to the first
thousand people who recruit ten supporters.
When persuading your friends remember to tell them:
(a) English libel laws have been condemned by the UN Human Rights
(b) These laws gag scientists, bloggers and journalists who want to
discuss matters of genuine public interest (and public health!).
(c) Our laws give rise to libel tourism, whereby the rich and the
powerful (Saudi billionaires, Russian oligarchs and overseas
corporations) come to London to sue writers because English libel laws
are so hostile to responsible journalism. (In fact, it is exactly
because English libel laws have this global impact that we welcome
signatories to the petition from around the world.)
(d) Vested interests can use their resources to bully and intimidate
those who seek to question them. The cost of a libel trial in England
is 100 times more expensive than the European average and typically
runs to over £1 million.
(e) Three separate ongoing libel cases involve myself and two medical
researchers raising concerns about three medical treatments. We face
losing £1 million each. In future, why would anyone else raise similar
concerns? If these health matters are not reported, then the public is
put at risk.
My experience has been sobering. I’ve had to spend £100,000 to
defend my writing and have put my life on hold for almost two years.
However, the prospect of reforming our libel laws keeps me cheerful.
Thanks so much for your support. We’ve only got one shot at this
– so I hope you can persuade 1 (or maybe 10) friends, family and
colleagues to sign.
The Libel Reform Campaign is a coalition of English PEN, Index on
Censorship and Sense About Science.
So far, 188 MPs have signed our Parliamentary Early Day Motion
calling for libel reform and the Justice Secretary Jack Straw has
formed a working party that the Libel Reform Coalition is represented
Please also considering donating to keep our campaign going: