Big names in UK comedy, science and politics come together on stage to tell us that England’s libel laws have become a dangerous joke.
The Big Libel Gig on Sunday 14 March 2010 at the London’s Palace Theatre will raise funds to support the Coalition for Libel Reform. An eclectic line-up, including Dara Ó Briain, Tim Minchin, Marcus Brigstocke, Robin Ince, Ed Byrne, Shappi Khorsandi, Professor Brian Cox, Simon Singh, Professor Richard Wiseman, Dr Peter Wilmshurst and Dr Ben Goldacre, is supporting the campaign for a public interest defence to protect writers, bloggers, academics, human rights activists and performers.
The Big Libel Gig is the brainchild of comedian Robin Ince - whose previous successes include the annual Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People shows and who will be hosting the evening – and Simon Singh, the science author and broadcaster, who will be talking frankly about the impact of libel fears on scientific debate.
Simon Singh, who is currently being sued by the British Chiropractic Association, said: “Peter Wilmshurst, Ben Goldacre and I will talk about being sued for libel. Peter is being sued for raising concerns about a heart device. He faces bankruptcy by coming up against our draconian libel laws. We are all put at risk if doctors and scientists are scared to speak out because of English libel laws.”
Stars of the show will tell the audience that England’s unjust libel laws are preventing free speech and open criticism of big corporations and powerful institutions. They will call for others to support the campaign for a public interest defence and join them in signing the petition for libel reform at www.libelreform.org. The Big Libel Gig will be the culmination of Libel Reform Week, which will raise awareness of English libel laws and urge political parties to commit to major reforms before the election, in the interests of fairness, the public interest and free speech. The campaign has gone from strength to strength with 197 MPs signing Parliamentary Early Day Motion 423, Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, leading Tories and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg MP all praising the campaign after over 10,000 letters were sent to MPs.
Funds raised from The Big Libel Gig will be donated to the Coalition for Libel Reform, established by the charities Index on Censorship, English PEN and Sense About Science.
Dara Ó Briain, Performer and Author: “The English libel laws were supposed to support the principles of decency and fair play that this country has always aspired to. Nowadays though, those values have been dangerously reversed. For journalists, performers, scientists and writers, the libel laws in England are becoming a dangerous joke”.
Marcus Brigstocke, Writer and performer: "We urgently need a full review of the way that English libel law affects discussions about evidence. The notion that a scientist with legitimate questions to ask about the veracity of claims made by any practitioner or organisation claiming to serve the public and improve its health, should be intimidated into keeping silent for fear that the British legal system will find against him is abhorrent.”
Tim Minchin, Performer and musician: “Here is what current English libel laws say: "Dear inquisitive, hard-working person with the public interest at heart: If a rich b*****d tells you to shut-up, you'd better shut-the f**k-up or be prepared to go broke". It needs a tweak, we reckon.”
Nick Cohen, Journalist: “In its exorbitant costs and institutional bias, the English libel law is the greatest restriction on our right to freedom of expression. Unless we reform it, intelligent debate in this country will wither.”
Ben Goldacre, medical doctor and Bad Science columnist, who was sued for libel in 2008 for criticising the promotion of vitamins to treat HIV in South Africa: “Laws that stifle debate harm patients, because in medicine we have seen repeatedly that people can do great harm, even when they intend to do good. So we can't just tolerate criticism of our ideas and practises: we must welcome it, because criticism is the only way that our ideas and practises improve.”
Richard Wiseman, Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology, University of Hertfordshire and Author: “England's libel laws and high legal costs can deter individuals from speaking out against bad science. They should be reformed to help ensure the public get the whole story.”
Tickets are on sale now and can be bought from SeeTickets online at http://www.seetickets.com/see/event.asp?e|artist=THE+BIG+LIBEL+GIG&n|artist=null&resultsperpage=20&filler1=see&filler2=art-srch&orderby=date,time , in person at the Palace Theatre booking office or on 0844 4124657.