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Ed Miliband supports new public interest defence

17th October 2012

Today two champions of the Libel Reform Campaign asked the leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband if he can help us get a public interest defence into the government’s Defamation Bill. Dara Ó Briain and Dr Simon Singh told him the Bill does nothing to protect science writers, online forums, consumer groups and patient support groups, or anyone who wants to talk about evidence. 

Libel reform team

After hearing about the desperate need for a public interest defence Ed Miliband promised to work with the government to tackle it. He said: The key to a healthy democracy is the right to free speech. But to defend this we need a modernised defamation law that protects citizens and honest discussion from the stifling threat of legal action. That’s why it’s so important that we grasp this once in a generation opportunity to update our defamation laws. I commend the work of the Libel Reform Campaign who are fighting so hard for the reform of our outdated defamation laws and it’s crucial the government heeds their concerns. There’s still time to mould this into a successful Bill – and Simon Singh Ed Miliband Dara O Briain that includes a new public interest defence – otherwise this opportunity risks being wasted”

Dara Ó Briain, performer: "Where the Bill falls down is the lack of a proper public interest defence. As the Bill stands, nothing has changed".

Dr Simon Singh, science writer and defendant in BCA v Singh: "The Government claims that the proposed Bill would protect scientists and people like me who want to discuss evidence in newspapers and blogs. The Ministry of Justice is wrong, because the current Bill does not contain a strong public interest defence. However, I am very pleased that Ed Miliband and Sadiq Khan have committed Labour to ensuring that the Bill is improved in order to include the appropriate protection for important journalism on matters of public interest."

Dr Síle Lane, Sense About Science: “While the libel laws are complicated the issues aren’t: do we want a society where people don’t speak out, or one where free and open discussion is possible? We are pleased Labour will help us tell get the government to bite the bullet and insert a new effective defence into the Bill."

Kirsty Hughes, Chief Executive of Index on Censorship:We’re very pleased Ed Miliband saw the case for serious reform of our libel law and the need for a stronger public interest defence in the Bill. Libel law reform has cross-party support, so we’re hoping the government stays true to its Sadiq Khan Ed Milibandpledge for meaningful reform and strengthens its current Bill.”

Jo Glanville, the Director of English PEN: “I’m delighted that Ed Miliband is supporting the Libel Reform Campaign’s demand for an effective public interest defence. It’s a central reform for the Defamation Bill, ensuring that scientists, bloggers, consumer campaigners and human rights activists, as well as journalists, can speak out in the public interest without fear of being silenced with the threat of libel action.”

There are more photos of the meeting on our Flickr page.

Help us now to ensure reform protects the public interest and free speech, donate to the campaign here