Thursday, 4 June 2009

Sign up now to keep the libel laws out of science!

Forgive the parlous lack of posting in the past few weeks, a combination of the Guardian Hay festival, the new job and general effort in getting the wheels spinning again have hampered me. I apologise.

May of you will be aware of the situation that Simon Singh finds himself in and I’m sure will be as concerned as I am about him and the wider ramifications. I therefore devote this post to his cause and have copied the page from the excellent senseaboutscience website. I hope they won’t mind. I encourage you to click through and sign the petition in support of Simon.

Sign up now to keep the libel laws out of science!

The use of the English libel laws to silence critical discussion of medical practice and scientific evidence discourages debate, denies the public access to the full picture and encourages use of the courts to silence critics. The British Chiropractic Association has sued Simon Singh for libel. The scientific community would have preferred that it had defended its position about chiropractic through an open discussion in the medical literature or mainstream media.

Today Simon Singh announces that he is applying to appeal the judge's recent pre-trial ruling in this case, in conjunction with the launch of this support campaign to defend the right of the pubic to read the views of scientists and writers.

Join the campaign! In a statement published today, over 100 people from the worlds of science, journalism, publishing, comedy, literature and law have joined together to express support for Simon and call for an urgent review of English law of libel. Please help us with this campaign, sign the statement and tell everyone you know to sign it. With every additional 1000 names we will be sending the statement again to Government until there is a commitment and a timetable from the parties for the necessary legislation.

"It has been a stressful and frustrating twelve months since I published my article on chiropractors and their attempts to treat children with conditions such as asthma. The British Chiropractic Association's decision to sue me for libel has been an enormous drain on my time and energy. However, the support that I have received from family, friends, readers, bloggers, scientists, journalists and those who care about free speech has been incredible, and it has played a crucial role in my decision to continue defending my article and fighting the libel action.

More importantly, everyone agrees that there is something fundamentally wrong with the English libel laws, which have a chilling effect on journalists, whether they write about science or anything else, whether they live in Britain or anywhere else. Hence, I am delighted that so many individuals and organisations have come together to launch a campaign with Sense About Science to highlight how the English libel laws clash with the right to discuss science in a frank and fair way. The Keep Libel Laws out of Science Campaign will also raise issues related to my particular libel case, and it will encourage a debate on the reform of the English libel system.

The campaign launch revolves around the statement shown below, and I would urge anyone who cares about science or free speech to show support by signing up.

And I would also encourage you to make your friends and colleagues aware of the issues at stake and ask them to sign up. It is possible that the time is right for major libel reform in England, which will then allow scientists and journalists to write with less fear of being intimidated."

Simon Singh

Click here to read Simon's full account of the story

Click here to read and sign the statement.

For more information contact Sile Lane on or call 020 7478 4380.

***UPDATE*** as of 18:00BST more than 2000 people have signed. However, even campaigners (and their tired little fingers) need a rest. We will continue updating the names in the morning.

News already! This statement has already received a response, with support from cross party MPs.

With huge thanks to Andy Lewis, Emma Welsh, Hamish Symington, Frank Swain and Elisa Parish.

Press Coverage

The Independent Silenced, the writer who dared to say chiropractice is bogus

The Times Review of libel law called for by comedians

The Guardian online Science writer Simon Singh to appeal against chiropractic libel judgement

Nature news Science writer will appeal libel case ruling

Times Higher Education Singh plans to appeal ruling in libel case

Wall Street Journal Britain Chills Free Speech

The Daily Telegraph online Stephen Fry and Ricky Gervais defend science writer sued for libel

The Daily Mail online Celebrities back writer sued by chiropractors for saying unproven treatment is 'bogus'

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