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Libel law reform to protect free expression

The government has signalled its intention to stem the flow of libel tourists and grant greater protection to investigative journalists and to academics who cannot publish their work for fear of litigation.

These are two of the key measures are expected to be part of a reform of libel law in England and Wales.

The Justice minister Lord McNally told Parliament that there would be a consultation exercise over the summer with publication of a draft Bill early in the new year.

Lord McNally said: "We recognise the concerns raised in recent months about the detrimental effects that the current law may be having on freedom of expression – particularly in relation to academic and scientific debate, the work of non-governmental organisations and investigative journalism."

He said the heart of the reforms would be protecting people from press intrusion while at the same time ensuring freedom of speech was protected. London has been a popular destination for celebrities who claim their reputations have been damaged by the media.