UN rapporteur calls for end to criminal defamation laws

The United Nations special rapporteur for free expression Frank La Rue has called for the abolition of criminal defamation laws. Guatemalan lawyer La Rue also condemned the use of “national security” reasons to curb free expression:

In a report released today, LaRue comments:

The Special Rapporteur reiterates the call to all States to decriminalize defamation. Additionally, he underscores that protection of national security or countering terrorism cannot be used to justify restricting the right to expression unless it can be demonstrated that: (a) the expression is intended to incite imminent violence; (b) it is likely to incite such violence; and (c) there is a direct and immediate connection between the expression and the likelihood or occurrence of such violence.

Criminal defamation cases are frequently brought to silence criticism of authorities. Recent examples include actions brought against journalist Art Troitsky in Russia and anti death penalty campaigner Alan Shadrake in Singapore.

British author Alan Shadrake jailed in Singapore

The Singapore High Court has denied writer Alan Shadrake’s appeal against his six-week jail sentence.

Shadrake was convicted of “scandalising the judiciary” in November after he published “Once A Jolly Hangman” a book criticising the use of the death sentence in the city-state. The author was first arrested in July 2010 while on a book tour and subsequently released on bail. Singapore law considers statements that “interfere with the administration of justice” a criminal offense. The British writer, 76, still faces a separate charge of defamation.

Singapore: British author appeals jail term

The British author Alan Shadrake, 76, has launched an appeal today (11 April) against a six-week jail sentence he received for scandalising Singapore’s judiciary. Shadrake was sentenced and fined last November after the Singapore High Court ruled that his book, Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock, broke the city-state’s laws. The Attorney-General’s Chamber in Singapore had argued that the book damaged public perception of the judiciary.


Singapore: UK attorney general’s unusual court application over Shadrake

The Attorney General’s Office today made an unprecedented application for the court to remind Alan Shadrake of his right to seek leave of the court if he wants to leave Singapore. This implies that if his defence team applies for Shadrake to leave the jurisdiction, the prosecution would not contest it. Last Tuesday, he was sentenced to six weeks in prison for “scandalising the court” in his book Once A Jolly Hangman. Shadrake, who appealed the sentence last week, has said that he will consider the offer.