“England’s libel laws are unjust, against the public interest and internationally criticised — there is urgent need for reform.”

That’s the message that the Coalition for Libel Reform is delivering to Parliament tomorrow in the form of a petition signed by writers, performers, scientists, and other Brits concerned that their country is severely lagging behind other developed nations in protecting free speech. In fact, “libel tourism” is becoming a serious problem, as right now England’s archaic laws give wealthy foreigners the ability so sue other foreigners if so much as a single critical pamphlet is found in England.

We’ve talked a lot on Skepchick about Simon Singh’s ongoing libel trial in which he is boldly defending himself from the increasingly asinine British Chiropractors Association, but today marks an important moment in the fight. Sense About Science, the group that has done wonderful work advocating for protecting science from libel law, has joined forces with Index on Censorship and English Pen to up the pressure on British politicians. This is great news, as is the fact that they’re moving forward with a well-thought-out plan of attack that utilizes the awesome people who have supported this initiative so far, like Simon Singh, Richard Wiseman, Dara O’ Briain, Jonathan Ross, Stephen Fry, Ben Goldacre, Marcus Chown, Dave Gorman, Robin Ince, and many others.

I was able to chat with Dara, Marcus, and Robin, as well as John Kampfner, the CEO of Index on Censorship. Find the audio on the Skepchick iTunes feed, via the RSS, or listen through your browser: Dara O’Briain, Robin Ince, Marcus Chown on Libel Reform

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org and appears on the weekly Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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9 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Tracy King
    December 9, 2009 at 7:41 pm —

    This is one of the most important, if not THE most important thing to come out of British skepticism.

  2. Profile photo of Tracy King
    December 9, 2009 at 7:42 pm —

    PS I meant the petition for reform, not your interviews, although those are of course very good :D

  3. Profile photo of James Fox
    December 9, 2009 at 8:02 pm —

    Changing UK liable laws will have a huge impact on many people way beyond the current issue of free speech and scientific/medical opinion. Hopefully it will allow more free speech about the harms of religion and religiously motivated crimes and intolerance. Hats off to all the UK skeptics who are fighting the good fight and making a real difference!!

  4. Profile photo of Mick
    December 9, 2009 at 9:54 pm —

    It’s good to see organised opposition to these ridiculous laws (and it helps that the media is likely to be very friendly to such a cause).

  5. Profile photo of csrster
    December 10, 2009 at 2:17 am —

    “increasingly asinine British Chiropractors Association”

    oh-oh

  6. Profile photo of Rei Malebario
    December 10, 2009 at 3:20 am —

    Since you’re now living in the UK and are thus vulnerable to british label laws, it’s probably worth mentioning that “asinine” in american english actually means “purple and gold and covered with a fine layer of soft, downy fur”. ;~)

  7. Profile photo of Rebecca Watson
    December 10, 2009 at 3:38 am —

    I submit that “asinine” is a subjective term and that the BCA’s suicidal actions clearly fall within the definition.

  8. Profile photo of willbxtn
    December 10, 2009 at 4:41 am —

    I spoke to a couple of folk at Skeptics in the Pub last Monday, and I was pleased to see there was such strong support for it – it’s a long overdue reformation, and is one of the few areas of the British Legal System that is seriously out of date.

    It’s also handy this is a cause that’ll be very, very strongly supported by the press…

    Oh, and I am rather jealous of you getting to meet Dara O’Briain, you lucky, lucky girl…

  9. Profile photo of OnlyCheryl
    December 10, 2009 at 10:14 am —

    Dara O’Briain is my kind of man. Too bad he’s married – to a Brit no less. Oh, well, love does strange things to people. (Kidding – I’m part Irish.)

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