The libel reform debate has tended to focus on the interests of journalists, scientists, bloggers and other potential defendants to libel claims.  There is obviously strong public interest in the free flow of information.  Journalists must be able to investigate and report on the powerful, scientific developments require free and open debate, NGOs must be able to campaign on issues of public interest.  There is, however, a countervailing public interest in truth and accuracy.  The difficult question is how to get the balance right.

The law of libel presently seeks to achieve this balance partly by means of the standards of “responsible journalism” – by means of the Reynolds/Jameel “public interest defence”.   This obviously gives rise to difficult questions in relation to bloggers and scientists who are not supported by large media corporations.  Should the standard of “responsibility” be varied or should there be some other type of “public interest defence” available to special categories of publishers?

The panel discussion this evening at Gray’s Inn, organised by Inforrm and the Media Standards Trust is aimed at exploring how and where this balance between the different interests should be struck.

The panel will also address other important questions in this area such as

  • What can be done to produce faster and fairer resolution of libel claims
  • Should reform aim to provide affordable remedies to members of the public who have been damaged by the publication of false statements?
  • Should people have better opportunities to resolve their libel claims through alternative dispute resolution rather than having to take all claims to the High Court?
  • Should the Courts be able to order the publications of corrections or apologies or be able to grant declarations of falsity in libel cases?
  • Should libel reform be accompanied by regulatory reform to give, for example, regulators power to award compensation to those damaged by the publication of false stories?

This Inforrm/Media Standards Trust Event is taking placed this evening in Gray’s Inn Hall, registration beginning at 6.10pm with the discussion at 6.30pm.   The event will be chaired by Baroness Helena Kennedy.  The panel includes Sir Charles Gray, Razi Mireskandari, Evan Harris, Zoe Margolis and Kevin Marsh. More details can be found here.  Tickets will be available at the door.