Yet the bill (HR 6146) is only a step in the right direction: It doesn’t do enough to combat “libel tourism.”

Libel tourism” is the practice of litigants seeking out foreign courts whose libel laws are more favorable to plaintiffs than US law – in particular that don’t provide the full free-speech protection enshrined in our First Amendment.

Problem is, to truly solve this problem, we need to do more to deter “libel tourists” from filing these lawsuits in the first place.

Specifically, we must allow authors, journalists and publishers who’ve been victimized by these overseas lawsuits the ability to countersue here in the United States. That will make potential litigants think twice before they try to exploit foreign libel laws against American authors and publishers.

To that end, I introduced The Free Speech Protection Act (HR 5814) earlier this year; its Senate companion (S 2977) is sponsored by Sens. Arlen Specter and Joe Lieberman. This would not only bar the enforcement of these outrageous judgments, but also allow US persons to bring a federal cause of action against any person bringing a foreign libel suit if the writing does not constitute defamation under US law.

My bill also allows for expedited discovery and would award damages to the US person who brought the action in the amount of the foreign judgment – plus the costs related to the foreign suit and the harm caused to the victim’s opportunities to publish, conduct research or generate funding. More, it would award treble damages if the person bringing the foreign lawsuit intentionally engaged in a scheme to suppress First Amendment rights.

Nothing in my bill would limit the rights of foreign litigants who bring good-faith defamation actions to prevail against journalists and others who have failed to adhere to standards of professionalism by publishing false information maliciously or recklessly. It does, however, try to discourage those foreign suits that aim to intimidate, threaten and restrict the freedom of speech of Americans.

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