Centre for Communication Governance at NLU delhi
Criminalization of Defamation

Emma Watson & Alex Johnson, Decriminalising Defamation, International Federation of Journalists (2005)

This Report by the International Federation of Journalists argues against the criminalization of defamation as it causes a chilling effect on free speech, especially of the press. It offers a summary of recent international defamation cases and aims to provide the resources necessary to campaign for the decriminalization of defamation.

Council of Europe, Towards Decriminalization of Defamation, Parliamentary Assembly Report, Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights (2007)

The Parliamentary Report of the Council of Europe argues that criminal sanctions for defamation may have a “chilling effect” and restrict free debate. The Report concludes that prison sentences must be excluded in the case of defamation in order to ensure that the laws of Member States are in line with the evolving jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights.

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Constitutionality of the Law of Criminal Libel, 52(4) Columbia Law Review 521 (1952) [Restricted Access]

This paper argues that the concept of criminal prosecution for the publication of defamatory statements is inimical to the principle of freedom of the press embodied in the Federal Constitution. It contends that this becomes readily apparent as the actual basis of the law of criminal libel is protection of reputation rather than prevention of breaches of the peace.

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Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Ending the Chilling Effect: Working to Repeal Criminal Insult and Libel Laws, Representative on Freedom of the Media (2004) [Open Access]

This OSCE Report gives an overview of the working of criminal libel laws in the OSCE region, and then makes a case for de-criminalisation of defamation, and the de-harshening of libel laws. It goes on to make a number of recommendations to the Government and the Judiciary to ensure that the aim of ending the chilling effect on free speech can be achieved.

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Mei Ning Yang, Criminalization of Defamation in the New Media environment – The Case of the People’s Republic of China, 14 International Journal of Communication Law and Policy 2 (2011)

This article summarizes the International position on criminal defamation, and the calls for its abolition. However, it also points out that criminal defamation still exists in more than 100 countries around the world, and have apparently been given a new lease on life in some jurisdictions, including several states in the United States, in an effort to tackle malicious online attacks on reputation. This article reports the results of an exhaustive survey of criminal defamation cases over the years in the People’s Republic of China with an emphasis on examining whether criminal defamation has a special role to play in policing online speech.

Susan W. Brenner, Should Online Defamation be criminalized?, 76 Mississippi Law Journal 705 (2006-07) [Open Access]

This paper argues that though defamation has not been a criminal offence in the United States since the drafting of the Model Penal Code, this position needs to be revaluated with regard to internet defamation. It argues that with the increasing use of cyberspace, greater harm is caused due to online defamation, which should thus be criminalized.

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