(AFP) – Jul 27, 2010
WASHINGTON — The US House passed a bill Tuesday aimed at shielding US journalists, authors, and publishers from "libel tourists" who file suit in countries where they expect to get the most favorable ruling.
Lawmakers approved the measure, which now goes to President Barack Obama to sign into law, by a voice vote.
Backers of the bill have cited England, Brazil, Australia, Indonesia and Singapore as places where weak libel safeguards attract lawsuits that unfairly harm US journalists, writers and publishers.
The Senate approved the measure in a "unanimous consent" voice vote last week, brushing aside misgivings from major US allies.
The bill's supporters have said that "libel tourism" undermines free speech rights under the US Constitution's cherished first amendment, and so erode accountability of powerful figures in a healthy democracy.
The measure would prevent US federal courts from recognizing or enforcing a foreign judgment for defamation that is inconsistent with the first amendment of the US Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech.
It would bar foreign parties in such cases from targeting the US assets of an American author, journalist, or publisher as part of any damages.
The US Constitution's first amendment, backed by a series of US Supreme Court decisions, makes it harder to win a libel suit in the United States relative to many other countries.
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