Libel reform campaign launches in Parliament
Time to reign in the rogue libel outfits?
I was gutted to be missing this event due to ongoing winter lurgee – but delighted to see that Malcolm Grant, provost of my old college UCL, was the first university head to sign up to the campaign:
A university leader has thrown his weight behind a campaign to reform England’s libel laws amid growing concern about so-called “libel tourism” and its impact on academia.
Malcolm Grant, provost of University College London and a trained lawyer, told Times Higher Education that the current laws were having an impact beyond Fleet Street and were stifling scientific debate and academic freedom.
“It is fundamental and critically important that the threat of libel law be lifted from scientific dispute,” he said, describing it as “quite chilling” that the laws were being used to threaten scholars with heavy financial penalties for making simple points about science.
Professor Grant is joining representatives from science, journalism, publishing and the literary sector this week to launch a new petition for libel-law reform, organised by the charity Sense About Science, the free-speech organisation Index on Censorship and English PEN, which represents authors.
He said: “There are not many vice-chancellors who are lawyers, and I am heading up a very strong science university, so I think it is important to be involved.”
The petition calls for “major reforms” of the English libel laws, saying they “inhibit debate” and “stifle free expression”.