For immediate release:
Kevin Smith, SPJ President, (304) 367-4864,
Scott Leadingham, SPJ Communications Department, (317) 927-8000 ext. 211,
INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists is urging leaders in the U.S. Senate and House to move forward quickly with a bill meant to limit libel tourism, the practice of suing U.S. journalists and authors in foreign jurisdictions with less-substantive protections than the First Amendment.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) introduced a bipartisan bill Tuesday that ensures foreign libel judgments cannot be enforced in the U.S. if the foreign country’s defamation laws are inconsistent with protections afforded under the United States Constitution. Compared to other countries, libel law in the U.S. favors journalists and authors and puts a high burden of proof on those seeking damages for defamatory statements.
“The protection for journalists, authors and publishers from foreign libel suits that don’t hold America’s standards for free speech and press is greatly welcomed,” said SPJ President Kevin Z. Smith. “We applaud the Senate’s work on this legislation. We have long endorsed this protection and we are delighted that this protective shield is making its way into federal law.”
The Society has continually pushed for a legislative solution to libel tourism, and through its counsel at Baker & Hostetler LLP in Washington, D.C. assisted in drafting the bill. Partner Bruce D. Brown also testified before the House Judiciary Committee in February 2009 and the Senate Judiciary Committee in February 2010 on behalf of the Society regarding the chilling effect of libel tourism and potential legislative solutions. Read SPJ’s previous statement here.
Sens. Leahy and Session’s bill, called the Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage (SPEECH) Act, will hopefully move quickly through Congress and ultimately be signed into law by President Obama before the end of the current session.
Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information about SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.