LONDON – Freedom of speech campaigners accused British lawmakers Tuesday of blocking attempts to reform the country’s tough libel laws.

A committee of House of Commons legislators voted to delay proposed changes to current laws, which would sharply cut fees charged to both defendants and complainants by lawyers representing them in libel cases.

Media organizations in Britain have long complained that excessive fees mean they often can’t afford to defend themselves in defamation cases, stifling free expression and curtailing investigative journalism. Some say they’re simply unwilling to run potentially contentious stories because of the risk they could be sued. Britain has earned a reputation as a favored destination for celebrities and big businesses — including McDonald’s — to sue for libel, prompting a surge in so-called libel tourism. In 2006, actress Kate Hudson won a case against the National Enquirer, taking on the magazine’s U.K. edition in a London court rather than pursuing the case in the U.S.


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