Dear Dr Andrew Murrison MP,He emailed me back soon after saying he would reply to me via post and just the other day I recieved his response in the post. I was disappointed to read that he would not be signing the EDM.
I am writing as one of your constituents who is deeply concerned about the effect our libel laws have on medicine, science, journalism and literature. I believe English libel law cripples free expression both in the UK and abroad.
Firstly, I would urge you to sign cross-party EDM 423 Libel Law Reform to send a clear message from Parliament that you are committed to reforming these unjust laws.
Freedom to criticise and question, in strong terms and without malice, is the cornerstone of argument and debate, whether in scholarly journals, on websites, in newspapers or elsewhere. Our current libel laws inhibit debate and stifle free expression. They discourage writers from tackling important subjects and thereby deny us the right to read about them.
The law is so biased towards claimants and so hostile to writers that London has become known as the libel capital of the world. The rich and powerful bring cases to London on the flimsiest grounds (libel tourism), because they know that 90% of cases are won by claimants. Libel laws intended to protect individual reputation are being exploited to suppress fair comment and criticism.
The cost of a libel trial is often in excess of Â£1 million and 140 times more expensive than libel cases in mainland Europe; publishers (and individual journalists, authors, academics, performers and blog-writers) cannot risk such extortionate costs, which means that they are forced to back down, withdraw and apologise for material they believe is true, fair and important to the public.
The English PEN and Index on Censorship report has shown that there is an urgent need to amend the law to provide a stronger, wider and more accessible public interest defence. Sense About Science has shown that the threat of libel action leads to self-censorship in scientific and medical writing.
I would urge you to back the campaign by English PEN, Index on Censorship and Sense About Science for a Libel Reform Bill.
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I'm not entirely sure what sort of 'middle way' he refers to and I can't help but feel this is a bit of a cop out?
Needless to say he hasn't necessarily lost my vote over this - he didn't have my vote in the first place.
*update* I have since had it pointed out to me that the response I recieved is a template response that many people have had sent to them. I don't feel this is acceptable. I may have sent my MP a template letter - but I'm a civilian who doesn't have the necessary knowledge about libel law, or the libel reform campaign to write a worthwhile letter outlining my concerns. This man is an MP who is paid to represent people, he should be able to write a letter from scratch in reply so I emailed him saying:
I recently recieved your letter in the post and would like to thank you for taking the time to reply to me. However, I couldn't help but notice that your response was exactly the same as the responses a number of my friends recieved from their MP's from various parts of the UK. Why is it that you have replied to me with a template letter?
- Hayley Stevens