Media law and policy can both liberate and restrict press freedom and the public’s access to information. In the Internet age, information is more accessible, creating global controversies and challenges. With the 2013 Defamation Act and the 2012 Leveson Inquiry into illegal hacking by the media, the United Kingdom has engaged in a major public debate on how best to protect a person’s reputation and privacy while upholding the fundamental freedom of expression. The debate has value for nations around the world seeking to find their own answers to these questions. Many countries have Draconian libel laws based on English common law that cry out for careful reconsideration. Meanwhile, unwarranted and illegal media intrusion on private lives has raised international concerns and alarm.
The British reforms and other developments in a post-wikileaks era provide a convenient entry point for other jurisdictions to study and examine issues of press freedom, reputation, privacy and self-regulation. Because a number of countries, including Asian countries, have inherited the UK common law system, but have developed and refined their own rules on defamation, privacy, speech crimes and other related aspects of media law and policy, it will be a valuable opportunity to conduct an international exchange on legal reform. The conference also offers an opportunity to share the continental, Chinese, and South East Asian experiences that are indispensable in a global dialogue.