Libel law and scientific censorship
Debate should occur in journal pages and not the courts, campaigners argue
- By: Richard Hurley
In April the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) dropped its libel case against the science writer Simon Singh.12 Singh could have settled earlier but spent two years and more than £200 000 defending himself. His supporters, including scientists, academics, and freedom of speech campaigners, say that English law is being used inappropriately to stifle free speech and scientific debate—not just in the United Kingdom but around the world. They hope that Singh’s win will accelerate the reform of libel laws in the United Kingdom.
Libel is the publication of a statement that might damage someone’s reputation. The BCA brought the action against Singh after he wrote an article in the Guardian comment pages on 19 April 2008. Initially the newspaper removed the article from its website after the writ was served, but it has since reinstated it.3 In the piece Singh criticised the BCA for “happily promoting” spinal manipulation for diseases in