Raab: Human Rights Act Reform Will Strengthen Freedom Of Speech

The government’s review of the human rights framework will “strengthen and reinforce the right of free speech,” the Justice Secretary told MPs this week.  

During a Parliamentary debate, Dominic Raab MP also said he was “very happy” to look at the issue of strategic lawsuits against public participation which can be used against journalists to chill investigative reporting.

The right to free speech needed to be reinforced “in particular given some of the judge-led privacy law we have, but also some of the encroachments on free speech we have seen in political debate,” Mr Raab said.

The Justice Secretary was also challenged by Deidre Brock MP on plans to take away whistle-blower protections in the Official Secrets Act – an issue which the News Media Association has previously raised concerns about.  

Liam Byrne MP welcomed the Justice Secretary’s “defence of free speech” but said that free speech is “under attack in our courts” through SLAPPs.

He said: “When will the Secretary of State bring forward a defence against strategic lawsuits against public participation—SLAPPs? If we want to live in truth, we need SLAPP-back laws now.”

Mr Raab responded: “I am very happy to look at the specific issue. The House has periodically looked at questions of libel law and we will keep those issues under constant review.

“As I have said in relation to a Bill of Rights, this is an opportunity to reinvent the priority attached to freedom of speech.”

The NMA will be responding to the consultation on the Human Rights Act.