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Author Topic: Simon Singh: “A big step for me, a small step for libel reform"  (Read 1708 times)

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From:      news[bat]libelreform.org
Date:      Wed, April 7, 2010 8:08 pm

Message from Simon Singh: “A big step for me, a small step for
libel reform, and what you can do to help today.”



Dear Friends

Sorry for the silence, but it has been a ridiculously hectic (and
happy) time since last week’s victory at the Court of Appeal.
However, I urgently wanted to get in touch to update you on the status
of my case, the latest news on libel reform and what you can do today
to push libel reform up the political agenda.

BCA v Singh
April Fool’s Day 2010 was a day to remember. The Court of Appeal
gave a ruling in my libel case with the British Chiropractic
Association. The ruling strongly backs my arguments and puts me in a
much stronger position when my trial eventually takes place. At last,
after two years of defending my article and my right to free speech, I
seem to have the upper hand and can breathe a small sigh of relief.

Moreover, the judges made it clear that they did not want to see
scientists and science journalists being hauled through the High
Court. In particular, they endorsed the view that a so-called comment
defence should be adequate for scientific and other articles on
matters of public interest. As well as the legal technicalities, the
three wise, charming and handsome judges quoted Milton on the
persecution of Galileo and directed that the High Court should not
become an “Orwellian Ministry of Truth”.

Libel Reform Campaign
This is a small step forward for libel reform, but there is still a
huge battle to be fought over the issues of costs, libel tourism,
public interest defence, balancing the burden of proof, restricting
the ability of powerful corporations to bully individuals (e.g.,
bloggers, journalists, scientists) and so on.

The General Election was called yesterday and the manifestos will be
published in the next week, so we need one last push to persuade the
major parties to commit to libel reform. Although we have already
achieved a huge amount (from editorials in all last week’s
broadsheets to the Commons Select Committee recommending libel
reform), we must keep up the pressure!

Both the Labour and Conservative parties have made encouraging sounds
about libel reform, but now is the time for them to make commitments
in their manifestos.

What you can do today to pressure politicians
I have spent over a million minutes and ?100,000 defending my article
and my right to free speech, so I am asking you to spend just one
minute and no money at all persuading others to sign the petition for
libel reform at
http://libelreform.indiemedium.com/lt.php?id=ZkQFWwgKBVtXSAYDSQsBV1EC

The last time I made this request, we doubled the number of
signatories from 17,000 to 35,000. Can we now double the number from
almost 50,000 to 100,000?!

You could ask parents, siblings, colleagues or friends to sign up.
You could email everyone in your address book. You could blog about
it, mention it to your Facebook friends and twitter about it. In fact,
I have pasted some possible tweets at the end of this email – it
would be great if you could twitter one, some or all of them.

You could forward all or part of this email to people or just steer
them to www.libelreform.org/sign . Or you could persuade people that
English libel law needs radical reform by using some of the reasons
listed at the end of this email.

Remember, we welcome signatories from around the world because
English libel law has a damaging impact globally.

Please, please, please apply maximum pressure to the politicians by
encouraging as many new signatories as possible. Please do not take my
victory last week as a sign that the battle is over. My case is still
ongoing and the campaign for libel reform is only just starting.

Thanks for all your support – it has been incredibly important for
the campaign and a real morale booster personally over the last two
years.

Simon Singh.

Ps. Please spread the word by sending out one, some or all of the
following tweets

Pls RT English libel law silences debate, says UN Human Rights
Committee. Sign up at www.libelreform.org & back #libelreform Pls RT
English libel costs 140x more than Europe. We can't afford to defend
our words. Sign up at www.libelreform.org & back #libelreform Pls RT
Two ongoing libel cases involving health. The law should not crush
scientific debate. Sign up at www.libelreform.org & back #libelreform
Pls RT London is notorious for attracting libel tourists who come to
UK to silence critics. Sign up at www.libelreform.org & back
#libelreform

PPs. Reasons why we need radical libel reform:

(a) English libel laws have been condemned by the UN Human Rights
Committee.

(b) These laws gag scientists, bloggers and journalists who want to
discuss matters of genuine public interest (including 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. (Again, 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) Two separate ongoing libel cases involve myself and Peter
Wilmshurst, and we are both raising concerns about medical treatments.
We face losing ?1 million each. In future, why would anyone else raise
similar concerns when our libel laws are so brutal and expensive? Our
libel laws mean that serious health matters are not necessarily
reported, which means that the public is put at risk.

PPPs. I know that I will leave people out of this list, but I owe a
huge thanks to:

1.        The 10,000 people who joined the Facebook group “For Simon Singh
and Free Speech - Against the BCA Libel Claim”, particularly those
who joined when the rest of the world ignored the issue of libel.

2.        The 300 people who packed Penderel’s Oak in May 2009 and who
helped launch the Keep Libel Out of Science campaign, particularly the
speakers: Nick Cohen, Dave Gorman, Evan Harris MP, Professor Brian
Cox, Chris French, Tracey Brown (Sense About Science), Robert Dougans
(Bryan Cave) and David Allen Green.

3.        The 20,000 people who then joined the Keep Libel Out of Science
campaign.

4.        Jack of Kent and every other blogger who ranted and raved about
libel reform when the mainstream media was turning a blind eye.

5.        Everyone in the mainstream media who is now covering the various
libel cases and the issue of libel reform.

6.        Sense About Science, Index on Censorship and English PEN, who
formed the Coalition for Libel Reform. And thanks to everyone who has
contributed pro bono to the campaign in terms of design, technical
support, chivvying support for the EDM and more.

7.        The 46,000 people (i.e. you) who have signed the petition for
libel reform, particularly those who have cajoled others to sign up at
http://libelreform.indiemedium.com/lt.php?id=ZkQFWwgKBVtXSAYDSQsBV1EC

8.        All the big names who have spoken out in favour of libel reform,
from Professor Richard Dawkins to Derren Brown, from the Astronomer
Royal to the Poet Laureate, from the Amazing Randi to Ricky Gervais.
Particular thanks go to Dara O Briain, Stephen Fry, Tim Minchin and
Robin Ince, who have gone out of their way to step up to the plate
when the campaign has needed them. Immense thanks also to the 100+ big
names who were the first to sign the petition to keep libel out of
science and highlighted the need for libel reform.

9.        Everyone who has emailed and twittered and told me in person that
I am not going crazy, and who reassured me that I am doing the right
thing by defending my article.

10.        Thanks to Nick Clegg, leader of the Lib Dems, for promising to
put libel reform in his manifesto. And thanks in advance to Jack Straw
(Justice Secretary) and Dominic Grieve (Shadow Justice Secretary),
because I know that the Labour and Conservative parties are going to
commit to libel law reform. I cannot believe that they will allow more
scientists, serious journalists, bloggers, biographers, human rights
activists and others to go through the same hell that I have had to
endure for last two years.
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