Libel laws need reform – Simon Singh

Libel laws are stifling the media’s ability to address public concerns. This was the message put to students yesterday in an open lecture by Simon Singh.

In an hour long lecture at the Canterbury campus, the acclaimed scientific author and journalist talked about all aspects of the media, from the good, to the bad and ugly.

He said: “How can you have a journalist raising a legitimate concern and then finding themselves being sued for libel?”

“We think we live in a free country, but our libel laws are some of the strictest in the world”.

Mr Singh had previously been sued for libel following a column in the Guardian where he dismissed certain benefits of chiropractors.

Although the case was won at appeal stage, the paper still lost £175,000 in unrecoverable legal fees.

He has also been leading a campaign to help change libel laws in the country and is hoping such reform will be mentioned in the next Queen’s speech.

He added: “It may seem strange with all the tabloids and Leveson [ going on], but that is more about privacy. Science journalism can have a real impact on people’s lives”.

Since his campaign libel reform was mentioned in all three of the major parties manifestos, and was also placed in the coalition agenda.

The lecture was part of the universities series of open lectures, open to students, staff and members of the public.

Places do not need to be booked and a full schedule can be found on the University of Kent website.

The next lecture is due to take place at the Medway Campus on March 22, where Jeremy Cooper will be talking about “The New World of Tribunals – A Quiet Revolution”.

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