One of key reasons for the introduction of the Defamation Bill was to protect journalists and small publication from being harried by large corporations.
The problem with defamation law has been particularly stark in relation to scientific articles.
We have seen numerous cases – Simon Singh and Ben Goldacre to name just two – where science writers have been sued for libel relating to articles that are patently part of the scientific debate.
To tackle this Labour moved amendments to tackle this problem in the House of Commons. These amendments were sadly defeated by the government.
Happily these amendments were re-tabled when the Bill made its way to the House of Lords and were passed with Cross-bench support.
These amendments will raise the bar for corporations to bring a claim of defamation. This is entirely right because, contrary to what Mitt Romney may have said, corporations are not people.
Too often libel law is used by corporations as a way to suppress negative publicity – this must change.
Unfortunately the battle is yet to be won. Edward Garnier, the former Tory Solicitor General, has now tabled amendments that would remove these amendments from the Bill.
D-Day will be on Tuesday when the Bill returns to the House of Commons to discuss the amendments made by Peers.
Garnier’s amendment must be defeated if this Bill is to do what it was intended to.
Corporate practice in the United States is different from this country. In the USA the same person can be both Chair of the Board and Chief Executive – this gives that person huge power. In the UK the roles are separated.
Rupert Murdoch holds both posts at News Corporation. He is not in semi-retirement, he is hands-on. Rebekah Brooks told the Committee that she spoke to him every other day when she was News International CEO.
This is why the charge of “wilful blindness” to what was going on made by the Culture Select Committee is persuasive.
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In the past you were either a Europhile and constantly uncritical of the European institutions- or a Europhobe and unable to acknowledge any virtues in the European project.
So perhaps the crisis we now face will enable us to adopt a more balanced attitude in re-assessing the European project.
We need to this from at least three perspectives; the policies, the EU institutions and the relation with our citizens and national institutions.
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