I apologise if this seems a bit like plagiarism, stealing someone else’s work to put on my blog but I guess it kind of proves a point about the mainstream media. Getting the truth or matters of relevance out of them is a bit like asking the MoD for a bunch of flowers and a public apology for, well, everything really.
I have to admit though, persuading parliament to recognise the truth as an affirmative defence to a complaint of libel sounds good to me, given the fact that my neck has been on the block for sometime with regards to this here blog of mine.
UK libel laws trash human rights
Says the United Nations
By Egan Orion: Thursday, 14 August 2008, 6:09 AM
THE UN COMMITTEE on human rights has criticised British libel laws for chilling free speech about matters of legitimate public interest, along with UK government officials’ abuse of the Official Secrets Act to muzzle and suppress public employee whistleblowers.
The United Nations critique lends weight to international concerns that British courts have been used for "libel tourism" by rich foreign plaintiffs seeking damages for truthful disclosures that they considered commercially inconvenient or personally embarrassing.
The human rights committee published its conclusions in response to a report on civil and political rights submitted by the UK, as UN members are required to do every third year.
British libel laws have "served to discourage critical media reporting on matters of serious public interest, adversely affecting the ability of scholars and journalists to publish their work, including through the phenomenon known as libel tourism," the committee concluded.
The UN’s concerns bring into focus the fact that the internet’s rise has rendered the former information barriers of geographical distances and international borders largely ineffective, such that research and media reports, which might be entertained as alleged libels in some jurisdictions, such as in the UK and some other commonwealth countries, now become available to everyone in countries around the world almost simultaneously.
The committee warned that overly restrictive libel laws could chill legitimate international discussion, contrary to article 19 of the UN member states’ covenant on civil and political rights, which guarantees the right to freedom of speech "regardless of borders."
Parliament has been asked to enact libel law reforms, including recognition of truth as an affirmative defence to a complaint of libel, and a public figure exception to the UK’s libel laws, which would require a libel plaintiff to prove actual malice by a publisher or author.
US libel laws include a public figure exception, under which public officials and prominent public figures can only prevail in a libel lawsuit if they can show some evidence of malice, recklessness or indifference to the truth by the respondent and that the statement is false.
With regard to the UK’s Official Secrets Act, the committee said it "remains concerned" that the act has been "exercised to frustrate former employees of the Crown from bringing into the public domain issues of genuine public interest, and can be exercised to prevent the media from publishing such matters." The committee also observed that the Official Secrets Act has been used to suppress information even when national security was not involved.
The UN human rights committee also leveled criticism at the UK 2006 Terrorism Act’s "broad and vague" definition of the prosecutable offence of " encouragement of terrorism." µ