Fears over future of Defamation Bill
Lord Lester has warned that amendments proposed to the Defamation Bill by Lord Puttnam are placing the future of the Bill in jeopardy. It was Lord Lester's Private Member's Bill that originally put defamation on the parliamentary agenda and led to the government-sponsored bill. The Bill seeks to modernise and codify the law of libel. However, the proposed amendments by Lord Puttnam (which have been approved by the House of Lords) would establish a 'defamation recognition commission' and a 'specialist arbitration service', which could require media organisations to obtain 'pre-clearance' for stories from an independent regulator or risk facing exemplary damages. The amendments are seen by some commentators as a response to the government's failure to react appropriately to the Leveson Inquiry. The government has indicated it will block Puttnam's amendments. Its means of doing this are limited and thus the amendments may result in the long-awaited Defamation Bill being scrapped.
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