"Most imprisoned journalists have been convicted for defamation"
Miklos Haraszti on Britain's decriminalisation of seditious libel
17 Nov 09

OSCE media freedom watchdog Miklos Haraszti welcomes United Kingdom’s decriminalisation of defamation, urges other states to follow

“The United Kingdom is the first among the Western European participating States in the OSCE to officially decriminalize defamation. This is a crucial achievement not only for the country’s own freedom of speech, but a great encouragement to many other nations which are still to pursue such a reform,” Haraszti said.

An amendment to the Coroners and Justice Act decriminalized defamation, sedition and seditious libel, defamatory libel and obscene libel in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“My Office has recommended the decriminalization of defamation for several years. Although these obsolete provisions have not been used in Western Europe for decades, their ‘chilling effect’ remained. Their existence has served as justification for states unwilling to stop criminalization of journalistic errors, and leave those offences solely to the civil-law domain,” Haraszti said.

“I urge other participating States to speed up reforms and end criminal libel,” he said.”Defamation is a criminal offence in all except nine OSCE participating States — Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, Estonia, Georgia, Moldova, Romania, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In most countries it is punishable by imprisonment, substantially ‘chilling’ critical speech in the media. Most imprisoned journalists have been convicted for defamation.”