August 16, 2008

UN says British libel law violates human rights

I’ve always been appalled by British libel law as long as I’ve known about it. Basically it puts a strong onus on defendants to prove that what they have said is true, rather than on the accuser to prove that it is false. The result is an excessive real-world limitation on freedom of speech for authors, journalists, and speakers. It has recently resulted in something known as “libel tourism,” where a powerful person or corporation that has been criticized in the press or in a book can take sue the author in British courts to take advantage of their favorable laws.

Now the United Nations has taken a position. They say that British libel law violates human rights. The UK Guardian has a report on the UN’s statement from their Thursday issue.


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