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.