Thursday, August 14, 2008

Britain's libel laws are stifling free speech

British libel laws are stifling free speech around the world as wealthy businessmen and celebrities increasingly turn to UK courts to silence their critics abroad, the United Nations has warned.

In a report published yesterday, the UN's Committee on Human Rights criticises the phenomenon of "libel tourism", where foreign businessmen and millionaires use the High Court in London to sue foreign publishers under claimant-friendly defamation laws.

It said that UK defamation law had discouraged critical media reporting on serious public interest matters, affecting the ability of scholars and journalists to publish their work.

The report cites the case of Dr Rachel Ehrenfeld, an American researcher who was sued in London by a Saudi businessman and his two sons over a book which was not published in the UK, although 23 copies were sold into the jurisdiction via the internet and one chapter was available online.

[disturbing stuff -- read more at The Independent]