23 June 2023

Lawfare - another area where reform needed to preserve and promote our democracy

This book is relatively brief and that, in itself, is commendable. Too often books have to be stretched out to the standard length of 80-100,000 words regardless of whether the content merits it. Publishers demand books of a certain length and it’s a pleasure to read books, such as this one, concisely written and just as long as they need to be and no more. It makes the message all the more powerful.

Journalism is a broad church but most of us would wholeheartedly welcome the work that goes into the best kind of investigative journalism. It is deeply threatened by people with much to hide and plenty of money to pursue that desire. As Robertson notes:

The function of investigative journalism is to report, analyse and comment on such matters, and on the beneficiaries, without let or hindrance. By providing the powerful with weapons to obstruct such examinations, British law reduces the availability of news that is worthy of reporting, precisely because it opens people’s eyes to what is happening in their country or their community. For that reason, speech should be accounted the first of our freedoms and have in our laws a presumption in its favour.

It is difficult to come up with any reasonable justification for the UKs law around libel but this book goes beyond that. It lays to waste the notion that the UK is a model state when it comes to free speech.

So, contrary to the boasts of politicians such as Mr Raab, the United Kingdom has a wretched history and tradition when it comes to free speech. That is because of laws and procedures that for the most part remain in force.

Robertson unpicks the web of legislation and its unintended consequences before suggesting the reform needed at many levels.


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