ARTICLE 19 ASSAILS CRIMINAL DEFAMATION LAWS
In a new report, the IFEX member expresses concern that criminal defamation laws in these countries continue to be used against journalists by politicians eager to shield themselves from public scrutiny.
"The threat of criminal sanctions for defamation, especially imprisonment, exerts a profound chilling effect on freedom of expression," says ARTICLE 19.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that these sanctions carry unduly harsh penalties that violate the right to free expression "even if the circumstances justify some sanction" for harming an individual's reputation.
Free expression experts from the United Nations, the Organization of American States and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have also stated that criminal defamation laws contravene international standards.
ARTICLE 19 says Romania and Serbia and Montenegro have recently made positive moves by abolishing prison sentences in defamation cases, but prohibitively high fines continue to cast a chill on journalists.
Albania and Kosovo are progressing faster. Governments there are drafting amendments to replace criminal provisions with civil provisions.
Decriminalising defamation would allow the media to better perform its important role of providing information in the public interest in a timely fashion and disseminating opinions and ideas, argues ARTICLE 19.
However, efforts also need to be made to improve professional journalism standards, raise employment conditions for journalists and implement effective self-regulatory mechanisms in the media.
ARTICLE 19 says an international trend towards abolishing criminal defamation is currently emerging, led by countries including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ukraine, Georgia, Ghana, Togo, Central African Republic, Argentina and Peru.
Read ARTICLE's report:
- Defining Defamation: Principles on Freedom of Expression and Protection of Reputation:
- Joint Declaration by UN, OAS, OSCE Rapporteurs:
- OSCE/RSF Declaration on Libel and Insult Laws: http://www.osce.org/documents/html/pdftohtml/11-3714-rfm2.pdf.html
- Ending the Chilling Effect: Working to Repeal Criminal Libel and Insult Laws
- OSCE Survey of Defamation Laws in Europe: http://www.osce.org/fom/documents.html?lsi=true&limit=10&grp=288
- IFJ Campaign Kit for Decriminalising Defamation: http://www.ifj.org/pdfs/defamation.pdf
- Joint Declaration by U.N., OAS, OSCE Rapporteurs: http://www.cidh.org/Relatoria/showarticle.asp?artID=141&lID=1
- Criminal Defamation Laws in the Americas: http://www.cpj.org/defamation/defamation.html
- European Court of Human Rights: http://www.echr.coe.int/echr