Free speech is stifled by laws made for the rich

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David Davis MP is obviously right to highlight the threat to free speech and democracy posed by the so-called Slapp Actions – strategic lawsuits against public participation – brought by oligarchs in British courts (Democracy is at risk. We cannot let the oligarchs use British courts to silence their critics, November 29).

Sadly, attacks on free speech and truth-telling in power in the UK are not the exclusive preserve of wealthy and powerful foreigners seeking to exploit a lucrative legal trade that successive UK governments have done little to discourage.

Focusing on bad actors from overseas, Davis’ article ignores some notable and, some might argue, vexatious actions by wealthy UK citizens and companies who have sought to use wealth and influence to target individual journalists and publications. In seeking to glorify the uniqueness of British values ​​and institutions, he also overlooks how constitutional safeguards have been undermined since 2019 and his government’s intention to further legislate against the rights to protest, strike and even vote in elections. These are not acts of unscrupulous foreigners, even if they are actions they and their governments might approve of.
Ian Fraser
Tregynon, Powys

• Full marks to David Davis for attempting to address journalists threatened by strategic lawsuits. He says the government has picked up on the problem; unfortunately he also got used to it. Threatening organizations like the Good Law Project with unprecedented and unwarranted costs if they lose cases brought against dubious government practices is designed to prevent ministers from being held properly accountable. I look forward to what progress there is, if any, on anti-legality legislation.
Paul John
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

• I was delighted and surprised to read that David Davis understands that UK libel laws are a threat to UK freedoms. I have been a book publisher for over 30 years. In all that time, whenever a defamation allegation hit my desk, I responded the same way. I quickly apologized and promised to remove the book from our list immediately.

My answer had nothing to do with the merits of the accusation. UK libel laws intentionally assume that the accused is guilty and therefore must prove their innocence. The system was designed to support the rich and famous. When a libel suit came, the entire business of any small publisher was at risk. The only chance for survival was to immediately admit guilt and plead poverty.
Roger van Zwanenberg
Publisher, Zed Press and Pluto Books, 1976-2012

• I disagree with David Davis on almost everything, but he is absolutely right about the abuse of our courts by the super rich. He outlines several useful statutory reforms, but lacks a way to limit time-wasting spurious cases. Lawyers should advise clients on the likelihood of winning a case. They may be required by the Law Society to withdraw from a spurious case as a matter of professional ethics. This would provide an ethical means for a lawyer to drop such cases and a means to discipline unscrupulous lawyers who don’t.
Dr Robert Forde
Chickerell, Dorset

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