Government to Review Libel Legislation

*** UPDATE: On 10 November 2009 English PEN and Index on Censorship held a fascinating event to celebrate the publication of our joint report on English libel law reform, and the launch of the Libel Reform campaign, at the Free Word Centre. Please visit for more information. ***

Following Index on Censorship and English PEN’s announcement of an independent inquiry in to libel laws in the UK this week, the Ministry of Justice today announced that it will publish a consulation paper on defamation and the Internet in the UK.

Speaking at an adjournment debate called by Denis MacShane MP (Lab), with support from Michael Gove MP (Con) and Norman Lamb MP (Lib Dem), Justice Minister Bridget Prentice agreed to consider whether reform of civil defamation law is necessary, and promised a consultation paper on defamation and the Internet in the New Year. She also agreed to seek views on criminal defamation, after the issue was raised by Evan Harris MP (Lib Dem).

Index on Censorship editor Jo Glanville commented: ‘This is very welcome news – and long overdue. Our libel laws have become an international embarrassment and remain one of the single most damaging restraints on free speech and investigative journalism in the UK.’

Jonathan Heawood of English PEN added: ‘I’m glad that the Government has recognised the need for action on our dysfunctional libel laws. At present, the public’s right to know is being eroded by the power of the wealthy to threaten chilling libel suits.’

Read more about Index on Censorship and English PEN’s libel inquiry here:

Read about today’s debate on Index on Censorship’s Free Speech blog here

For further information please contact

Jonathan Heawood, Director, English PEN, on 0788 907 1711/020 7324 2541

Jo Glanville, Editor, Index on Censorship, on 0771 302 0971/020 7278 2313

English PEN is a registered charity (number 1125610) working to promote literature and human rights. From defending the rights of persecuted writers to promoting literature in translation and running writing workshops in schools, English PEN seeks to promote literature as a means of greater understanding between the world’s people.

Index on Censorship is a registered charity (Writers and Scholars Educational Trust number 325003) promoting freedom of expression. Its award-winning magazine and website provide a window for original, challenging and intelligent writing on these vital issues. Its international projects in media, arts and education support freedom of expression around the world.

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