The long promised reform of libel law was significantly watered down in a House of Commons vote on the Defamation Bill last night.
The changes to the bill, introduced by the Conservatives and backed by their Liberal Democrat coalition partners, removed proposals that would have required companies to show financial damage before they could sue journalists, researchers or bloggers.
Pirate Party UK Justice Spokesperson Loz Kaye said:
"The Defamation Bill has been plagued with cynical attempts to derail and diffuse real positive change. The progress made is welcome but the failure to rebalance power away from companies to individuals may take the guts out of this measure. The watered down bill will not end the chilling effect that so threatens free speech in the UK."
"That the Government has merely said it will give "active consideration" to the question of company powers will reassure no-one. The truth seems to be that the issue has been ducked."
"This is a missed chance to stand up for freedom of speech and hold corporations to account. Once again this coalition government has failed on civil liberties. Liberal Democrats could have decided to stick to the pre-election promises they committed themselves to in their manifesto, but chose instead to back the Conservatives. Indeed these reforms fall far short of their commitment in the coalition agreement that libel laws would be reviewed to protect freedom of speech. The desperate spin we are seeing from the Liberal Democrats is an attempt to hold on to grass roots activists who are rightly dismayed by yet another fudge."