Reforming Libel Law in the United Kingdom (NYC Event)

English libel law is an international problem. It has been condemned by a UN Human Rights Committee report, President Obama signed into law bipartisan legislation protecting Americans from its effects, and a UK Parliamentary committee described it as a national humiliation.

John Kampfner, CEO of Index on Censorship, explains how his organization alongside partners built a coalition of 60,000 supporters, and forced politicians to act with the first wholesale attempt at libel reform since 1843. The Libel Reform Campaign has been one of the most successful NGO campaigns of recent years, dominating the legal, media and public discourse on these laws.

This discussion on the Libel Reform Campaign covers questions such as:

  • What was the impetus for the campaign and how it developed from a piece of policy research into an international campaign?
  • What is the effect of English libel law on freedom of expression within the UK, and how does this continue to affect the U.S. and wider world?
  • How has this campaign forced politicians to rework an arcane area of law, and what are the lessons for other NGO campaigning?


  • John Kampfner, Director, Index on Censorship, and former Editor of  The New Statesman;
  • Victor Kovner, Counsel in many First Amendment cases and former Corporation Counsel of the City of New York;
  • Lord Lester of Herne Hill, Board member of the Open Society Justice Initiative and principal sponsor in Parliament of reform legislation.

The moderator is Aryeh Neier, President of the Open Society Foundations.

Date: October 20, 2011
Time: 6:007:30 p.m.

OSI-New York

Lord Lester of Herne Hill, John Kampfner, Victor Kovner, and Aryeh Neier