Keep Libel Laws out of Science

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KLOSSense About Science launched the Keep Libel Laws out of Science campaign in June 2009, calling for reform of the libel laws to protect open scientific discussion.

We encourage scientists to enter public debates on science and we support open discussion about scientific research so when we became aware that our libel laws were chilling scientific discussion, we knew we had to act. We objected to several high profile cases brought against scientists and were inundated with correspondence from hundreds of scientific researchers, patient groups, writers and publishers around the world about libel threats being used to silence scientific debate.

Our timeline of events shows Sense About Science’s story since June 2009 to our work today as part of the Libel Reform Campaign with writers' organisation English PEN and free-speech organisation Index on Censorship. The groundswell of support for the campaign led to all three main political parties including reform of the libel laws in their manifestoes at the 2010 UK General Election and the Government publishing a draft Defamation Bill in March 2011.  This is our first chance in a century to changes laws which have drawn international criticism. 

In coming months, we will be working with medical and scientific groups and our supporters to ensure that changes made to the laws are substantial and meaningful. Now we need you to write to your MP, if you live in the UK, asking them to state their support for libel reform to protect expressions of opinion and public interest discussions.

Timeline of the campaign

Keep Libel Laws out of Science logo 
Sense About Science launches Keep Libel Laws out of Science

June 2009

    Simon Singh
BCA V Singh
Simon Singh on the background to his case

  World Conference Science Journalists
The World Conference of Science Journalists

July 2009

    Simon's Appeal
Simon Singh's application turned down by Court of Appeal

August 2009

     Simon Royal Courts Justice
Simon Singh to apply again to Court of Appeal for oral hearing
  Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins Addresses the Liberal Democrat Annual Party Conference

September 2009

  Lib Dem logo
The Liberal Democrats commit to libel reform


The Association of British Science Writers annual lecture

October 2009

    Simon's Appeal
Simon Singh is granted permission to appeal
  Free Speech is Not for Sale report
Free Speech is Not For Sale report published

November 2009


Jack Straw acknowledges need for libel reform


  Libel campaign launch
Launch of Coalition for Libel Reform

December 2009

Panel for Simon Singh's appeal announced
  Clegg speech
Nick Clegg addresses Royal Society on libel

January 2010

  Jack Straw announces plans to reduces costs of libel
Jack Straw announces plans to reduce costs of libel laws


  CMS report
CMS Report 'Press Standards, Privacy and Libel'

February 2010

   Simon's appeal

Simon Singh's appeal hearing
  Big Libel Gig
Big Libel Week

March 2010

  Professor Lacerda
Prof. Lacerda addresses MPs on libel chill
The Big Libel Gig
  Mass Lobby
Mass Lobby of Parliament
Labour logo
Labour Party commits to libel reform
Conservatives commit to libel reform

April 2010

   Simon appeal judgement

Simon Singh appeal successful

Three major parties commit to libel reform in manifestos

   Simon Singh judgement

The BCA drop their case against Simon Singh

Parliamentary Early Day Motion for libel reform closes

  Free speech hustings
Free Speech Election Hustings
  Lord Lester

Lord Lester's Libel Bill published

May 2010

  Libel Bill

Government announces libel reform bill

July 2010


Medical Journalists' Association Awards 

  SPEECH act
US passes SPEECH Act against libel tourism

August 2010

Libel reform Campaign events at three main party conferences    
  Reforming Libel leaflet
Reforming Libel: What must a defamation bill achieve?

September 2010

A letter from Simon Singh, Ben Goldacre and Peter Wilmshurst calling for libel reform
  Geek Calendar
Launch of Geek Calendar to raise funds for libel reform

October 2010

  Bloggers guide
New guide to libel laws for bloggers published

November 2010

     Boob job threat
Plastic surgeon threatened for comment on 'boob job' cream
  Liberty awards
Libel Reform Campaign nominated for Liberty Human Rights Awards

  One Year On
One Year On: Justice Minister says libel laws not fit for   purpose

December 2010

    Peter Wilmshurst
US company ordered to pay costs into court or have libel action against cardiologist struck out
  Nick CLegg civil liberties
Nick Clegg commits to libel reform in speech on civil liberties

January 2011

  What should a defamation bill contain?

What should a Defamation Bill contain?

March 2011

     Peter Wilmshurst

Cardiologist Peter Wilmshurst sued for libel for 4th time  
Government publishes draft defamation bill      
Ask your MP to support EDM 1636 on libel reform    
Libel Reform Campaign tell MPs what we think of draft bill

May 2011

Our written evidence to the scrutiny committee


Help us shape Britain's libel laws


Ministers say draft bill is not reform

June 2011

Critic sued in Australia for libel by weight-loss product manufacturer
A quick guide to libel laws in England and Wales


A message from Simon Singh & Ben Goldacre

British Medical Association votes unanimously for libel law reform


August 2011

     Peter Wilmshurst