COSMOS Leads Global Campaign on Media Freedom

Luna Media Press Release | 31 July 2009


Simon Singh outside the Royal Courts of Justice: a global campaign in defence of media freedom has been launched

A GLOBAL CAMPAIGN in defence of British science writer Simon Singh – who is being sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association – was launched this week by COSMOS magazine.


On 29 July 2009, COSMOS – Australia’s #1 science magazine – republished the original article in print in its August edition as well as online, deleting a reference to the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) and modifying one contentious sentence.


The article, which originally appeared in Britain’s The Guardian newspaper – is otherwise unchanged; it has been translated into French, German, Swedish and Hungarian and been republished in 96 other sites so far, most of them bloggers supporting the cause.

“Rather than suing a journalist for libel, the British Chiropractic Association should mount a robust scientific defence against their claims.”
Singh's opinion piece republished in COSMOS

Singh was personally sued by BCA for the original article in April 2008, received an adverse court ruling on May 7, which he has now decided to appeal – even though the action has so far cost an estimated £100,000. The Guardian was not sued, but has nevertheless taken down the original piece from its website.


Chiropractic is an alternative health care treatment which involves manipulating the spine using short but forceful hand movements.

The global campaign is being coordinated by the British group Sense About Science, which has collected an online petition with more than 15,000 names supporting Singh. The campaign, known as “Keep Libel Laws Out of Science”, states “We, the undersigned, believe that it is inappropriate to use the English libel laws to silence critical discussion of medical practice and scientific evidence.”


“Simon Singh is a respected science journalist, and his article was a critical analysis of chiropractic therapy and some of the claims of its medical benefits, almost all of which are not supported by scientific evidence,” said Wilson da Silva, editor of COSMOS. “Rather than suing a journalist for libel, the British Chiropractic Association should mount a robust scientific defence against their claims.”

“Where medical claims to cure or treat ailments are not supported by scientific evidence, journalists and scientists should be able to criticise such assertions and the public should be able to read such criticisms.”

“If, however, the aim was to silence journalists and shut down debate, then clearly the effort has backfired,” he added. “Many more journalists, scientists and members of the public are now aware of the utter nonsense behind such chiropractic claims – such as curing asthma and colic – and many more are outraged enough to agitate against the BCA and pressure for a change in English libel laws.


“Where medical claims to cure or treat ailments are not supported by scientific evidence, journalists and scientists should be able to criticise such assertions and the public should be able to read such criticisms.”


Singh completed a BSc in physics and a PhD in particle physics at Cambridge University before becoming a director and producer in the BBC science department. Since leaving TV, he has become a best-selling author of science books, including Trick or Treatment?: Alternative Medicine on Trial, which he wrote with Dr Edzard Ernst, a professor of complementary medicine at the Peninsula Medicine School at the University of Exeter.


“It has been a stressful and frustrating 12 months since I published my article on chiropractors and their attempts to treat children with conditions such as asthma.,” says Singh.


“The British Chiropractic Association’s decision to sue me for libel has been an enormous drain on my time and energy. However, the support that I have received from family, friends, readers, bloggers, scientists, journalists and those who care about free speech has been incredible, and it has played a crucial role in my decision to continue defending my article and fighting the libel action.”

© 2019-20 Wilson da Silva. All rights reserved.