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article imageBritish deputy PM says country's libel law is embarrassing

By Samuel Okocha     Jan 7, 2011 in World
British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says the country’s plaintiff-friendly libel laws have become an international embarrassment.
Mr. Clegg vowed to change rules that have made Britain what he called a "libel tourism" destination for angry corporations and foreign celebrities.
Mr. Clegg was said to have made the comments in a speech on civil liberties where he decried the existing laws, which place the burden of proof on defendants.
It’s “simply not right when academics and journalists are effectively bullied into silence,” AP quoted him as saying in reference to the prospect of costly legal battles journalists face with the present British laws on libel.
Libel laws in the U.S. and many other countries are said to generally require plaintiffs to prove a published article was both false and written maliciously. However, in Britain, the burden of proof reportedly lies within the defendant to show what it published were true.
The AP reports in 2006, American actress Kate Hudson won a libel suit against the National Enquirer in London, because she relied on the fact that the U.S. publication has a British edition.
Clegg described the system as "a farce — and an international embarrassment." He called Britain's libel laws "an international laughing stock," after the U.S. Congress last year passed a law protecting American citizens from the enforcement of legal settlements in foreign jurisdictions such as Britain.
The Deputy Prime Minister said a new draft defamation law that would introduce a new defense of speaking in the public interest would be produced in the next few months. Mr. Clegg said the law would clarify the existing libel defenses to stop claimants suing "on what are essentially trivial grounds."
He added that the law would be updated to give more protection to people who write on the Internet, reports AP.
More about Britain, Nick clegg, Libel law
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