Reframing Libel: Taking (All) Rights Seriously and Where It Leads
21 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2010 Last revised: 16 Dec 2010
Date Written: December 2, 2010
In preparing this paper, we have returned to first principles and re-evaluated fundamental aspects of libel law, its purposes, its substance, and its processes. Our thinking has been informed by, first, philosophical understandings of democracy and the public sphere and in particular the role of freedom of speech and of the media therein, and secondly, the social psychology of reputation and privacy. By doing so, we are able to ground some of the proposals for reform made previously by Index on Censorship, English PEN, Lord Lester, and others. We do so, however, not through the prism of an over-weaned emphasis on freedom of expression, but rather by triangulating the rights and interests of claimants, defendants, and the wider public. Ultimately, we recommend a coherent set of significant substantive and procedural reforms that if enacted would enhance access to justice and reduce costs for all but the most serious and/or most damaging libels. This involves the recommendation of the introduction of a two-track libel regime.
Keywords: libel, defamation, freedom of expression, privacy, reputation, access to justice
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