Monday, 25 January 2010

Why I Will Not Be Voting Conservative in the General Election

When I signed the libel reform peition last year, I also ensured I wrote to my local MP in the hope that she too would be supportng the campaign.

Here is a copy of the letter I sent:

Dear Maria Miller,

I am writing as one of your constituents who is deeply concerned about the effect our libel laws have on medicine, science, journalism and literature. I believe English libel law cripples free expression both in the UK and abroad.

Firstly, I would urge you to sign cross-party EDM 423 Libel Law Reform to send a clear message from Parliament that you are committed to reforming these unjust laws.

Freedom to criticise and question, in strong terms and without malice, is the cornerstone of argument and debate, whether in scholarly journals, on websites, in newspapers or elsewhere. Our current libel laws inhibit debate and stifle free expression. They discourage writers from tackling important subjects and thereby deny us the right to read about them.

The law is so biased towards claimants and so hostile to writers that London has become known as the libel capital of the world. The rich and powerful bring cases to London on the flimsiest grounds (libel tourism), because they know that 90% of cases are won by claimants. Libel laws intended to protect individual reputation are being exploited to suppress fair comment and criticism.

The cost of a libel trial is often in excess of £1 million and 140 times more expensive than libel cases in mainland Europe; publishers (and individual journalists, authors, academics, performers and blog-writers) cannot risk such extortionate costs, which means that they are forced to back down, withdraw and apologise for material they believe is true, fair and important to the public.

The English PEN and Index on Censorship report has shown that there is an urgent need to amend the law to provide a stronger, wider and more accessible public interest defence. Sense About Science has shown that the threat of libel action leads to self-censorship in scientific and medical writing.

I would urge you to back the campaign by English PEN, Index on Censorship and Sense About Science for a Libel Reform Bill.

Yours,

Crispian Jago



and here is her response in full:


As I have spent much of the last year activley supporting the libel reform campaign, I'm afraid that it's hardly likely that I will be voting for an MP who does not support this much needed reform.

And, just in case you too also support Libel reform and happen to live in Basingstoke, you may wish to bear Maria Miller's stance in mind on election day.
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