Defamation Reform

The overall aim of the campaign is to update and reform defamation law so that it:
* Accurately reflects the modern media landscape, offering effective protection for freedom of expression
* Ensures reputations can be protected in a manner available to everyone, not solely the rich and powerful
* Provides safeguards for individuals from companies or those with powerful interests seeking to silence reasonable criticism and comment

To find out more about this campaign or see how you can take part, please contact Nik Williams at defamation@scottishpen.org.

As a partner in the Libel Reform Campaign, Scottish PEN is working with a range of partners to reform defamation law in Scotland. The existing legislation severely undermines freedom of expression, limiting the ability of media outlets, bloggers, social media users and civil society to share information in the public interest. The ability for the powerful to chill free speech demonstrates a challenge to Scotland’s ongoing commitment to protecting fundamental freedoms.

The overall aim of the campaign is to update and reform defamation law so that it:

  • Accurately reflects the modern media landscape, offering effective protection for freedom of expression
  • Ensures reputations can be protected in a manner available to everyone, not solely the rich and powerful
  • Provides safeguards for individuals from companies or those with powerful interests seeking to silence reasonable criticism and comment

Specific points we see as essential to the reformed law include:

  • The inclusion of a serious harm test that discourages trivial claims that can chill free expression and inundate Scottish courts with ‘vanity’ cases;
  • The creation of a statutory public interest defence that protects the publication of information that benefits public debate and informs civil society across Scotland;
  • Restricting corporate and public bodies suing for defamation. Corporate bodies do not have a private life, personal identity or psychological integrity. In the spirit of a law to protect citizens and the rights of citizen critics, corporate bodies and associations should be restricted in their ability to sue for defamation;
  • A single publication rule to replace the multiple publication rule, which currently counts every hit on a website as a new publication of the material on it and therefore a potential fresh cause of defamation action. A single publication rule best reflects communication in the digital age;
  • Defamation law to be brought up to date for the digital age. The law as it stands makes internet service providers (ISPs), forum hosts and similar entities liable for material published by them/on them. The law should ask claimants to approach authors of material before ISPs become liable for it, to prevent ISPs being forced to take material down in the face of defamation threats.

Case studies

Latest news and writing from Defamation Reform

Help us call on the Scottish Government to back defamation reform

Sign our letter to call on Annabelle Ewing MSP to bring forward a bill to reform defamation law in Scotland.

January 24, 2018

A Step in the Right Direction

Here is our statement on the Scottish Law Commission’s working draft for defamation reform in Scotland.

August 1, 2017

#DefamationScot: Making Noise, Calling for Reform

MSPs, writers, and journalists demand defamation reform to bring law in line with modern technology in event at Scottish Parliament.

June 30, 2017

Andy Wightman MSP, Defamation & Public Interest Reporting

Scottish PEN condemns the action brought against Andy Wightman MSP and calls for reform to adequately protect free expression & public interest reporting.

February 27, 2017