Libel Tourism & Free Expression

The Fight Against Libel Tourism

The Libel Tourist

 In The Libel Tourist (see Arabic version  Arabic version), Dr. Ehrenfeld discusses her experience with libel tourism and free speech rights advocacy. This documentary was directed by Jared Lapidus and produced by MPI, prior to the passage of the Libel Terrorism Protection Act (“Rachel’s Law“) in New York State in 2008, drafted and enacted at Dr. Ehrenfeld’s initiative. Similar laws have since passed in California, Tennessee, Utah, Florida, Illinois, and other states. A federal version of Rachel’s Law was passed unanimously by Congress and enacted in August 2010.

The American Center for Democracy is a leading advocate in the fight for the strong protections for freedom of speech required to maintain a robust and transparent democratic government, and to ensure diligent investigation in matters of public interest. To this end, the ACD works closely with state and federal legislatures to ensure that U.S. constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression remain whole and un- infringed; its initiatives have resulted in the passage of multiple state laws,  first the Libel Terrorism Protection Act (“Rachel’s Law”) in New York State in 2008,  as well as a federal law, the SPEECH Act of 2010 (Securing and Protecting our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage).

Led by its director, Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, ACD initiated this legislation to protect American writers and publishers from libel tourism – a phenomenon in which foreign libel plaintiffs sue, or threaten to sue, under claimant-friendly foreign libel laws in order to suppress legitimate scholarship and research.

The SPEECH Act, its predecessor bills, and anti-libel tourism state legislation, including New York’s Rachel’s Law, named after Dr. Ehrenfeld, are posted on our Legislation page. We have also posted letters and articles of Support for the Legislation from some of our most dedicated partners in this effort. The ACD efforts have also had an international impact: its U.S. legislative successes have spurred free speech reform movements in Europe, and have often been cited as the impetus for ongoing efforts to reform libel law in the United Kingdom.

Information on Dr. Ehrenfeld’s own personal battle with libel tourism is found on the litigation page.

Please read various media reports about the ACD relating to free speech and libel tourism, as well as articles authored by the ACD.

ACD First Amendment work is also focused on curtailing foreign influence on American educational and religious institutions. To learn more about this initiative, please contact us.

Afterwards –

In the UK, Queen Elizabeth II, announced a libel law reform in her annual Speech to British Parliament on May 9, 2012,
Rachel Ehrenfeld of ACD/EWI issued the following statement:

“An American citizen I set out in New York to defend myself from Britain’s draconian and antiquated libel tourism law and succeeded. New York State was first to pass the Anti-Libel Terrorism Law” (AKA “Rachel’s Law”) in May 2008. The Federal SPEECH Act, protecting all Americans writers and publishers in print and on the internet followed in August 2010. I am delighted that my actions in the US spurred the free speech reform movement in the UK to fight for and hopefully soon achieve a long over due reform of their libel law. One only hopes that the British Bar Council will not succeed in watering down the proposed Defamation Bill.”

Stopping SLAPP Suits

A Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, or SLAPP suit, is a lawsuit brought in United States court with the intent of suppressing legitimate free speech. Like libel tourism, SLAPP suits are meant to censor and harass critics into silence, subjecting them to protracted expensive legal battles and ruining their reputations. The effects of a SLAPP suit may extend well beyond the individual who is sued, intimidating others in his or her field and discouraging speaking and publication on matters of public interest.

Working with like-minded partners and building on the political and organizational relationships formed in its successful two-year effort to pass the SPEECH Act, ACD is helping formulate legislation that will deter SLAPP suits. We encourage you to contact us to learn more about joining our efforts, and to monitor our progress by checking back often.

To learn more about SLAPP suits, please click here.