1.Everyone shall possess the right to freely express and publicise his thoughts in words, images or by any other means, as well as the right to inform others, inform himself and be informed without hindrance or discrimination 2.Exercise of the said rights shall not be hindered or limited by any type or form of censorship Constitution of the Portuguese Republic, Article 37.º

UK Government to decriminalise defamation

Press Release via IFEX - International Freedom of Expression eXchange - Article 19 - Ethical Journalism Initiative

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - London, 13 July 2009 - On Friday, 10 July 2009, the government of the United Kingdom formally committed to decriminalising defamation by doing away with the common law offences of sedition, seditious libel and defamatory libel.

The proposed amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill was originally put forward in the House of Commons by Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament, Dr Evan Harris, after discussions with ARTICLE 19 (of which he is a board member). Lord Lester of Herne Hill also tabled a debate in the House of Lords last Thursday.

ARTICLE 19 has been campaigning for the decriminalisation of defamation, both in the UK and globally, for many years. Of the 168 countries surveyed by ARTICLE 19, 158 have criminal defamation laws and 113 countries have laws offering special protection to the most powerful and privileged figures in public life. These laws shield public figures from criticism, public scrutiny and investigation by virtue of the power they hold, thereby eating at the very heart of global efforts to promote good governance and combat corruption.

ARTICLE 19 warmly welcomes this initiative to abolish criminal defamation in the UK, which will make Britain the first Western European country to take this step. Even where criminal defamation laws have fallen into disuse, as was largely the case in the UK, the existence of these laws on the statute books provides more repressive governments around the world with the excuse they need not only to refuse to repeal defamation laws but also to make active use of such laws to imprison journalists, writers and others.

The UK will now join other countries which have done away with criminal defamation, including Bosnia & Herzegovina, Estonia, Georgia and Ukraine in Europe, and Ghana, Sri Lanka, the United States, New Zealand and Mexico globally.

"This measure will send a very strong and clear signal globally that democracies do not have criminal defamation laws," says Dr Agnès Callamard, Executive Director, ARTICLE 19. "No longer will repressive countries be able to justify their criminal defamation laws on the basis that such laws exist in established democracies such as the UK.

"Defamation, both civil and criminal, is one of the greatest threats to freedom of expression in the world today. It is a global problem that requires global action," continues Callamard.

Dr Harris comments, "The acceptance by the Government that our retention of these repressive laws causes much more harm than good is welcome. The UK must set an example to the world in getting rid of anti-free speech offenses."

ARTICLE 19 urges other countries to follow suit and do away with criminal defamation.

For more information:
ARTICLE 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression Free Word Centre 60 Farringdon Road London EC1R 3GA United Kingdom info (@) article19.org
Phone: +44 20 7324 2517
Fax: +44 20 7490 0566


  1. this is wonderful news.
    The UK starts being a democratic country.

  2. http://humanrightshouse.org/Articles/11311.html


  3. No matter what Evan Harris say he is an idiot he will say anything to get a vote. Get him out at the next election The man has a obsession with abortion and euthanasia he should be ashamed to call himself a doctor.

  4. This mean's that all million pounds payed by the Express media group to the Mccann's was another fraud and totally wrong.
    How convennient that issue to come out now and not two years ago whhen it was a hot problem between Portugal and UK? Mean's that Amaral can't sue the British newspaper or the Mccann's from now or he can still sueing them because the facts happened before the despenalisation?

  5. to anonym at 15/07/09 13:51

    If Mr. Gonçalo Amaral wishes to sue the McCanns he will do it here in Portugal, where the end result can become favourable to the reopening of the investigation. Not in England where the libel claims are used in out of court settlements and the truth is never known, 'erased' by the vast amounts of money paid to the opposing factions.



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