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London: 'Libel Capital Of The World'

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A year ago, the Independent ran a story -  - about U.S. celebrities being encouraged by British media lawyers to take advantage of the U.K.'s tougher libel laws.

apparently flock to the Sceptred Isle every year to take advantage of our friendly courts and quaint old ways, making London the undisputed '.'

The trend started in 2000, when Russian oligarch-turned-ÈmigrÈ sued U.S. business magazine .  The case went all the way to the House of Lords, which ruled that - since the magazine was widely available on the internet and Berezovsky had sufficient business interests in Britain to have been damaged - the court had jurisdiction.

Since then, numerous foreign celebrities have sued overseas media companies for libel in U.K. courts - including Polish film director , actress , and singer .

Criticism of English libel law

Last year, the New York State legislature passed the Libel Terrorism Prevention Act to .

And the has denounced English defamation law for "."

In January 2009, carried a story about two Ukrainian-based news organisations sued in London by Rinat Akhmetov, one of Ukraine's richest men:

"[T]he Kyiv Post, had barely 100 subscribers in Britain.  It hurriedly apologised as part of an undisclosed settlement.  Mr. Akhmetov then won another judgment, undefended, against Obozrevatel (Observer), a Ukraine-based internet news site that publishes only in Ukrainian, with a negligible number of readers in England."

Dawkins conference speech

At the weekend, scientist  addressed the  in Bournemouth and commented:

"It is a lamentable observation that because of the way our laws are skewed in favour of the plaintiff, London has become the libel capital of the world."

Mr. Dawkins went on to discuss the case of , a British journalist, who is being sued by the British Chiropractic Association over an article criticising chiropractic claims to cure asthma:

"I and many of my colleagues fear that if he loses it will have major implications on the .

...

"Scientists often disagree with one another, sometimes passionately.  But they don't go to court to sort out their differences, they go into the lab, repeat the experiments, carefully examine the controls and the statistical analysis.

...

"If the British Chiropractic Association was really sincere, it wouldn't go into court to sue Singh.  It could have taken up the ... offer of a right of reply.  Or better, it could go into the lab and do an experiment to show him wrong.  Why doesn't it submit its case to the higher scientific test?  I think we all know the answer.

"Or will I be sued for saying that?  The trouble is, it's hard to know.  That is the point.  Do we really want discussions on matters of science, evidence, and medicine, and indeed any area of public interest, to be conducted in an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty?"

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