Briefing Note on Criminal Defamation



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Briefing Note

on

Criminal Defamation

November 2009

ARTICLE 19 ∙ 6-8 Amwell Street ∙ London EC1R 1UQ ∙ United Kingdom

Tel +44 20 7278 9292 ∙ Fax +44 20 7278 7660 ∙ info@article19.org ∙ http://www.article19.org

This Briefing Note provides an overview of pertinent international freedom of information standards that directly relate to provisions on defamation contained in criminal laws. It draws on international and comparative jurisprudence, as well as authoritative standard-setting statements by international bodies. Frequent references are made to cases decided by the European Court of Human Rights, because of its detailed jurisprudence regarding the balance between defamation, or protecting reputations, and the right to freedom of expression. Reference is also made, however, to the jurisprudence of the United Nations Human Rights Committee (“Human Rights Committee”) and to prominent national jurisprudence.
The set of principles developed and expounded by ARTICLE 19 in its publication, Defining Defamation: Principles on Freedom of Expression and Protection of Reputations1 (Defining Defamation), serve as a frame of reference for the Briefing Note as a whole. Adopted by a renowned set of experts on defamation law from around the world, these principles have, among other things, been endorsed by the three official mandates on freedom of expression, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media and the OAS Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression.2
ARTICLE 19 is an established international human rights organisation, based in London. It takes its mandate from the nineteenth article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which guarantees the right to freedom of opinion and expression. It is a registered charity, independent of all ideologies and governments. ARTICLE 19 frequently submits legal opinions, written comments and amicus curiae briefs, either directly or through the commissioning of expert opinions, to both international and national courts in cases which raise issues touching on the international guarantee of freedom of expression.
ARTICLE 19 hopes that the Briefing Note will be used as a reference tool for the various actors dealing with the problem of defamation in Poland. ARTICLE 19 is of the view that all criminal defamation laws, regardless of what they are called, impose an unjustifiable restriction on free expression, and the provisions in the Polish legislation that criminalize defamation are no exception. Briefly stated, they protect illegitimate interests, criminalize the expression of opinions, violate basic principles of criminal law, provide insufficient means of defence to defendants and impose disproportionate sanctions. We urge the government of Poland to repeal these provisions and replace them with appropriate private law remedies if these do not already exist.



  1. The Fundamental Status of Freedom of Expression

Freedom of expression is a key human right, in particular because of its fundamental role in underpinning democracy. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (“UDHR”)3, a United Nations General Assembly resolution, guarantees the right to freedom of expression in the following terms:


Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the right to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”)4 elaborates on many rights included in the UDHR, imposing formal legal obligations on State Parties to respect its provisions. Article 19 of the ICCPR guarantees the right to freedom of expression in terms very similar to those found at Article 19 of the UDHR.
Freedom of expression is also protected in all three regional human rights treaties, at Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”),5 at Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights6 and at Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. 7
The guarantee of freedom of expression applies to all forms of expression, not only those which fit in with majority viewpoints and perspectives. The European Court of Human Rights (“European Court”) has repeatedly stated:
Freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of [a democratic] society, one of the basic conditions for its progress and for the development of every man … it is applicable not only to ‘information’ or ‘ideas’ that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also to those that offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population. Such are the demands of pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness without which there is no ‘democratic society’.8
International law permits limited restrictions on the right to freedom of expression in order to protect various interests, including reputation. The parameters of such restrictions are provided for in Article 19 of the ICCPR, which states:
The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:

(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;

(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.
Any restriction on the right to freedom of expression must meet a strict three-part test. This test, which has been confirmed by the Human Rights Committee,9 requires that any restriction must be (1) provided by law, (2) for the purpose of safeguarding a legitimate interest (including, as noted, protecting the reputations of others), and (3) necessary to secure this interest.
Article 19(3) of the ICCPR provides an exclusive list of aims in pursuit of which the exercise of the right to freedom of expression may be restricted for purposes of the second part of this test. In virtually all defamation cases before international courts, the “protection of the reputation or rights of others” has been invoked to justify defamation laws. Thus, it should be borne in mind that any laws that penalise ‘insult’ or ‘giving offence’ without linking this to the honour and dignity of the offended party will fail the ‘legitimate aim’ test.
The third part of the test implies, in particular, that in order for a restriction to be deemed necessary, it must restrict freedom of expression as little as possible, it must be carefully designed to achieve the objective in question and it should not be arbitrary, unfair or based on irrational considerations. Vague or broadly defined restrictions, even if they satisfy the “provided by law” criterion, are unacceptable because they go beyond what is strictly required to protect the legitimate interest.



  1. Criminal Defamation

Defamation laws are by definition a limitation on one human right protected by international law – the right to freedom of expression – in favour of another important interest, the protection of reputation. There is no automatic hierarchy between these two but the balancing must take place in accordance with a clearly-defined set of rules.


There is a strong and growing body of law in support of the principle that criminal defamation is itself a breach of the right to freedom of expression. The Human Rights Committee, for example, has repeatedly expressed concern, in the context of its consideration of regular country reports, about the possibility of custodial sanctions for defamation.
The Human Rights Committee has repeatedly expressed concern about criminal defamation laws,10 and has called on States to “ensure that defamation is no longer punishable by imprisonment”11. It has welcomed the abolition of criminal defamation laws where this has occurred.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression has stated unconditionally that imprisonment is not a legitimate sanction for defamation. In his 1999 Report to the UN Commission on Human Rights, he stated:
Sanctions for defamation should not be so large as to exert a chilling effect on freedom of opinion and expression and the right to seek, receive and impart information; penal sanctions, in particular imprisonment, should never be applied.12
In his Report in 2000, and again in 2001, the Special Rapporteur went even further, calling on States to repeal all criminal defamation laws in favour of civil defamation laws.13 Every year, the Commission on Human Rights, in its resolution on freedom of expression, notes its concern with “abuse of legal provisions on defamation and criminal libel”.14
The three special international mandates for promoting freedom of expression – the UN Special Rapporteur, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media and the OAS Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression – have met each year since 1999 and each year they have issued a joint Declaration addressing various freedom of expression issues. In their joint Declarations of November 1999, November 2000 and again in December 2002, they called on States to repeal their criminal defamation laws. The 2002 statement read:
Criminal defamation is not a justifiable restriction on freedom of expression; all criminal defamation laws should be abolished and replaced, where necessary, with appropriate civil defamation laws.15
While the European Court has never actually ruled out criminal defamation, it clearly recognises that there are serious problems with it. It has frequently reiterated the following statement, including in defamation cases:
[T]he dominant position which the Government occupies makes it necessary for it to display restraint in resorting to criminal proceedings, particularly where other means are available for replying to the unjustified attacks and criticisms of its adversaries or the media.16
These standards are encapsulated in Principle 4(a) of Defining Defamation, which states:
All criminal defamation laws should be abolished and replaced, where necessary with appropriate civil defamation laws. Steps should be taken, in those States which still have criminal defamation laws in place, to progressively implement this Principle.
It may be noted that countries around the world have taken steps to formally abolish criminal defamation laws – recent examples include Argentina, Sri Lanka, Ghana, Ukraine and most recently the United Kingdom – while in many more countries these laws have effectively become obsolete, reflecting their undemocratic nature.
A key problem with criminal defamation laws is that a breach may lead to a harsh sanction, such as a custodial sentence or another form of harsh sanction, such as a suspension of the right to practise journalism or a significant fine. Suspended sentences, common in some countries, also exert a significant chilling effect as a subsequent breach within the prescribed period means that the sentence will be imposed.
Even where these are not applied, the problem remains, since the severe nature of these sanctions means they cast a long shadow. It is now well-established that unduly harsh penalties, of themselves, represent a breach of the right to freedom of expression even if the circumstances justify some sanction. In the very first defamation case before it, the European Court considered that,
the penalty imposed on the author … amounted to a kind of censure, which would be likely to discourage him from making criticisms of that kind again in future … In the context of political debate such a sentence would be likely to deter journalists from contributing to public discussion of issues affecting the life of the community. By the same token, a sanction such as this is liable to hamper the press in performing its task as purveyor of information and public watchdog.17
The European Court has specifically held that a disproportionate sanction, even of a civil nature, is an abuse of the right to freedom of expression. In holding that a high civil defamation award represented a breach of the right to freedom of expression, the European Court stated:
[U]nder the Convention, an award of damages for defamation must bear a reasonable relationship of proportionality to the injury to reputation suffered.18
International jurisprudence has consistently emphasized the overriding importance of the guarantee of freedom of expression, resulting in a narrow interpretation of the legitimate scope of restrictions and sanctions. The “chilling” effect which disproportionate sanctions, or even the threat of such sanctions, may have upon the free flow of information and ideas must be taken into account when assessing the legitimacy of restrictions.
Imprisonment for defamation is a very severe penalty and the European Court has never upheld a prison sentence for defamation. Indeed, it has specifically stated, in relation to criminal penalties for defamation, that such measures should only be adopted where they are,
intended to react appropriately and without excess to defamatory accusations devoid of foundation or formulated in bad faith. [emphasis added]19
Although the European Court has upheld criminal defamation convictions, in these cases it has been at pains to point out that the sanctions were modest and hence met the requirement of proportionality. For example, in Tammer v. Estonia, the Court specifically noted “the limited amount of the fine imposed”20 in upholding the conviction; the fine in that case was 10 times the daily minimum wage.
As noted above, the legitimacy of custodial sanctions for expression-related matters, including for defamation, has repeatedly been called into question by UN bodies, including the Human Rights Committee. The clear view of both international jurisprudence and of the international bodies that have considered the matter is that the imposition of custodial sanctions through criminal defamation laws is disproportionate and unnecessary to protect individual reputations, particularly when alternative measures – including apologies, corrections and the use of the right of reply – can effectively address any harm to reputation without exerting a chilling effect on freedom of expression.



  1. The Right to a Reputation

The right to a reputation is guaranteed by Article 12 of the UDHR (together with a number of related rights): No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.


The corresponding provision in the ICCPR is Article 17, which is virtually identical except that it prohibits only “unlawful attacks” (emphasis added) on honour and reputation. This qualification was inserted as an additional safeguard for freedom of expression and to allow States some scope to decide what sort of attacks they wish to make unlawful.
The use of the word ‘attacks’ makes it clear that only deliberate and serious interferences with honour and reputation are covered. During the negotiations leading up to the adoption of the ICCPR, several States stressed that fair comments or truthful statements can never constitute ‘attacks’.
The significance of the distinction between ‘honour’ and ‘reputation’ in the UDHR and ICCPR is not completely clear. During the negotiation of the UDHR, some delegations opposed the word ‘honour’ on the grounds that it was too vague. The same objection arose during the drafting of the ICCPR. One reason why ‘honour’ was nevertheless retained in the final text is that some delegations viewed ‘reputation’ and ‘honour’ as two separate aspects of an individual’s standing in society. According to this view, ‘reputation’ relates to professional or social standing, while ‘honour’ relates to moral standing. Falsely accusing someone of, for example, incompetence would be an attack on reputation, while an accusation of theft would be an attack on honour. It would appear, then, that as used in these texts the word ‘honour’ is not synonymous with subjective feelings but, rather, an aspect of the objective esteem in which society holds the person.
The right to a reputation clearly applies against the State: public bodies are bound to refrain from unlawful attacks on the reputation of citizens. Article 12 of the UDHR and Article 17 of the ICCPR moreover require States to ensure that reputations enjoy “the protection of the law”. It is clear, then, that each country should have legislation which enables citizens to take legal action when State organs or officials tarnish their reputation. It is less clear whether or not the right to a reputation also has a positive aspect whereby States are required to adopt laws protecting reputations against attack by private persons. In practice, however, all States do have such laws on the books.



  1. Balancing the two rights – the three part test

The key issue resides in the question of to what extent may freedom of expression be restricted in order to protect reputations.


The ICCPR prescribes clear parameters within which all limitations on freedom of expression must remain: The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;

(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.


Article 19(3) stipulates a three-part test: first, any restriction on the right to freedom of expression must be in accordance with a law or regulation; second, the legally sanctioned restriction must protect or promote an aim deemed legitimate under international law; and third, the restriction must be necessary for the protection or promotion of the legitimate aim. All three conditions must be met for a restriction on freedom of expression to be legitimate.


  • ‘Restrictions’ on freedom of expression are any kind of formality, condition, restriction or penalty imposed by a public body on the exercise of the right, regardless of its severity.

For example, a law which requires individuals who are found responsible for defamation to publish a correction is a restriction on freedom of expression and is legitimate only if it complies with the three-part test.


  • The first part of the test means that a restriction on freedom of expression cannot be merely the result of the whim of a public official but must be based on a pre-existing law or regulation. The requirement goes further, however: legislation restricting freedom of expression must also be clear and accessible, so that it enables citizens to reasonably foresee the consequences of their actions. This means that all aspects of defamation law should be well-defined, including the level of compensation that may be awarded. There are several rationales for this. In the first place, it is a matter of fairness that citizens’ rights should not be restricted without giving them adequate notice in advance of what is prohibited. Furthermore, laws which are unclear allow excessive scope for interpretation which may give rise to abuse. Similarly, vague laws have what is often called a ‘chilling effect’: because they create uncertainty about what is and what is not permitted, they encourage self-censorship and may prevent discussion on legitimate and important subjects.




  • The second requirement for restrictions on freedom of expression is that they must serve a legitimate aim. This requirement is not open-ended; the list of legitimate aims provided in Article 19(3) of the ICCPR is exclusive and governments may not add to it. The list includes ‘respect of the rights and reputations of others’, providing a clear legal basis for genuine defamation laws. The list does not include the feelings or self-esteem of other individuals; laws protecting feelings therefore fail this part of the test.




  • The final part of the test holds that a restriction on freedom of expression must be truly necessary for the achievement of its aim. This may seem self-evident: if a restriction on a right is not needed, why impose it? Nevertheless, in a great majority of the cases in which international courts have found a breach of the right to freedom of expression, this was because the impugned restriction was not deemed to be necessary. The requirement of ‘necessity’ imposes strict quality controls on laws which restrict freedom of expression:




  • First, a restriction on free speech must be in response to a pressing social need, not merely a matter of convenience.




  • Second, the least intrusive measure which would achieve the pressing social need must be employed since a more intrusive measure would not be necessary if a less intrusive option were available. For example, shutting down a newspaper for defamation is excessive; other remedies, such as a retraction or a modest damage award, provide adequate protection for reputation.




  • Third, the measure must impair the right as little as possible and, in particular, only affects the specific harmful speech. For example, a law which prohibited all attacks on reputation would not meet this test, since it would, among other things, prohibit critical but factually truthful statements.




  • Fourth, the impact of restrictions must be proportionate, meaning that a measure’s harm to freedom of expression must not outweigh the benefits to the interest it aims to serve. A restriction which provides limited protection to a person’s reputation but which seriously undermines freedom of expression would not meet this standard.




  • Finally, in applying this test, courts and others should take into account all of the circumstances at the time the restriction is applied.

The position regarding criminal defamation under international law is frustrating for campaigners. On the one hand, the principles seem quite clear. International law requires restrictions on freedom of expression to be necessary, including in the sense that States must use the means which are least harmful to freedom of expression when protecting competing social interests. Given that civil laws provide adequate protection for reputations, as demonstrated by the experience of those countries which have abolished them, and yet are less heavy-handed than criminal defamation laws, it is hard to see how the latter could be considered ‘necessary’.





  1. Risks of criminal defamation

One of the main concerns with criminal defamation is the serious chilling effect it exerts on freedom of expression. Criminal defamation laws can lead to the imposition of harsh sanctions, such as a prison sentence, a hefty fine or, in the case of journalists, suspension of the right to practise their profession. Even if the maximum penalties are low, criminal defamation can still cast a long shadow: individuals prosecuted under it face the possibility of being arrested by the police, held in pre-trial detention and subjected to a criminal trial. Even if the court imposes only a minor fine, they may be saddled with a criminal record and face the social stigma associated with this. A common problem in many countries is the awarding of suspended jail sentences: the individual walks free but has nevertheless effectively been ‘shut up’ since any further conviction will lead to immediate imprisonment.


The chilling effect of criminal defamation laws is significantly exacerbated due to the fact that, in many countries, it is powerful social actors – such as government officials, senior civil servants or prominent businessmen – who bring the vast majority of cases. These individuals seek to abuse such laws to protect themselves from criticism or from the disclosure of embarrassing but truthful facts.
Another key objection to criminal defamation laws is that the goal of protecting individuals’ reputations can effectively be accomplished through the civil law. This is borne out by the experience of countries which have abolished or no longer use their criminal defamation laws. This raises serious doubts as to whether criminal defamation laws, by nature a more heavy-handed instrument, are justifiable since, as noted above, the least intrusive effective restriction must always be preferred.
Criminal defamation laws are also criticised on other grounds. Defamation is arguably a private matter between two individuals, with which the State should not concern itself. Criminal law generally deals with acts which are deemed to harm the general public interest, such as assault or robbery. Although such acts may take place between two individuals, they are considered to pose a risk to everyone in society, since everyone is at risk of being attacked or robbed if such actions are not sanctioned. The authorities normally prosecute the case on behalf of the public, using public funds. If found guilty, the suspect can be required to make reparation to the community by paying a fine to the State, be punished through a prison term or have some other penalty imposed. Where an activity is criminalised the implication remains that the state has an interest in controlling it. Hence, a criminal conviction will usually not provide the defamed person with any compensation, since in most legal systems fines go directly into the State’s pocket.



  1. Conclusion

One of the most serious problems with criminal defamation laws is that a conviction may lead to the imposition of a serious sanction and that the journalist concerned (it is often the media who fall victim to these laws) will gain a criminal record. ARTICLE 19 firmly believes that all criminal provisions on defamation and insult should be abolished and replaced with appropriate civil defamation laws. The criminalisation of a particular activity implies a clear State interest in controlling it and imparts a social stigma to it, neither of which we believe to be justified in relation to the protection of private reputations.


Criminal defamation has been condemned globally as offensive to basic rights of free expression and publication. Many countries have recognised that criminal defamation is obsolete, and have removed it from the statute books. In many countries criminal defamation laws provide greater protection for certain public officials (often including the head of State) than for ordinary citizens. Occasionally the level of criticism permitted against such individuals is lower, in other cases maximum penalties are higher or public officials enjoy special assistance from the State in bringing defamation actions. The chilling effect of criminal defamation laws is significantly exacerbated due to the fact that, in many countries, it is powerful social actors – such as government officials, senior civil servants or prominent businessmen – who bring the vast majority of cases. These individuals seek to abuse such laws to protect themselves from criticism or from the disclosure of embarrassing but truthful facts.
International human rights courts have consistently held, however, that public officials should tolerate more, not less, criticism than ordinary citizens. By choosing a profession involving responsibilities to the public, officials knowingly lay themselves open to scrutiny of their words and deeds by the media and the public at large. Moreover, vigorous debate about the functioning of public officials and the government is an important aspect of democracy. To ensure that this debate can take place freely, uninhibited by the threat of legal action, the use of criminal defamation laws by public officials should be circumscribed as far as possible. Moreover, the more senior the public official, the more criticism he or she may be expected to tolerate, including of his or her behaviour outside of official duties. Politicians come at the top of the scale due to the importance of debate about candidates for election.
Criticism of government and public bodies is vital to the success of a democracy and defamation suits inhibit free debate about vital matters of public concern. Defamation laws are designed to protect reputations. Public bodies should not be entitled to sue in defamation because they do not have any reputation of their own, perhaps apart from as a public collective, whereas the public, on balance, benefits from uninhibited criticism. Finally, most public bodies have ample ability to defend themselves from harsh criticism by other means, for example by responding directly to any allegations. Allowing public bodies to sue is, therefore, an inappropriate use of taxpayers’ money, particularly given the risk of abuse by governments intolerant of criticism.
As this Briefing Note has examined, one of the main concerns with criminal defamation is the serious chilling effect it exerts on freedom of expression. Criminal defamation laws can lead to the imposition of harsh sanctions, such as a prison sentence, a hefty fine or, in the case of journalists, suspension of the right to practise their profession. Even if the maximum penalties are low, criminal defamation can still cast a long shadow: individuals prosecuted under it face the possibility of being arrested by the police, held in pre-trial detention and subjected to a criminal trial. Even if the court imposes only a minor fine, they may be saddled with a criminal record and face the social stigma associated with this. A common problem in many countries is the awarding of suspended jail sentences: the individual walks free but has nevertheless effectively been ‘shut up’ since any further conviction will lead to immediate imprisonment.
A key objection to criminal defamation laws is that the goal of protecting individuals’ reputations can effectively be accomplished through the civil law. This is borne out by the experience of countries which have abolished or no longer use their criminal defamation laws. This raises serious doubts as to whether criminal defamation laws, by nature a more heavy-handed instrument, are justifiable since, as noted above, the least intrusive effective restriction must always be preferred. Criminal defamation laws are also criticised on other grounds. Defamation is arguably a private matter between two individuals, with which the State should not concern itself. Furthermore, a criminal conviction will usually not provide the defamed person with any compensation, since in most legal systems fines go directly into the State’s pocket.
ARTICLE 19 advocates that established democracies do not allow public bodies (such as ministries, government agencies or municipalities) to sue for criminal defamation under any circumstances, both because of the importance of open debate about the functioning of such bodies and because they are not regarded as having a ‘reputation’ entitled to protection. As abstract entities without a profit motive, public bodies lack an emotional or financial interest in preventing damage to their good name. Moreover, the bringing of defamation suits by these bodies is seen as an improper use of public money, particularly given the ample non-legal means available to them to respond to criticism, for example through a public counter-statement. ARTICLE 19 also argue that such ban should apply to all public bodies, whether they are part of the legislative, executive or judicial branches of government, and whether they are at the national, regional or local level. Some countries have even extended the ban to State owned corporations and political parties. Although many countries still prohibit defamation as a criminal offence, there is an increasing tendency to view criminal defamation as an unjustifiable restriction on freedom of expression and to abolish it in favour of civil defamation.



1 London: ARTICLE 19, 2000.

2 Joint Declaration of 30 November 2000. See also, UN Doc. E/CN.4/2001/64, 13 February 2001, para. 48; available at: http://www.unhchr.ch/huricane/huricane.nsf/view01/EFE58839B169CC09C12569AB002D02C0?opendocument.

3 UN General Assembly Resolution 217A(III), adopted 10 December 1948.

4 UN General Assembly Resolution 2200A(XXI), adopted 16 December 1966, in force 23 March 1976.

5 Adopted 4 November 1950, in force 3 September 1953.

6 Adopted 22 November 1969, in force 18 July 1978.

7 Adopted 26 June 1981, in force 21 October 1986.

8 Handyside v. United Kingdom, 7 December 1976, Application No. 5493/72, 1 EHRR 737, para. 49. Statements of this nature abound in the jurisprudence of courts and other judicial bodies around the world.

9 For example, in Laptsevich v. Belarus, 20 March 2000, Communication No. 780/1997.

10 For example, in relation to Iceland and Jordan (1994), Tunisia and Morocco (1995), Mauritius (1996),

Iraq (1997), Zimbabwe (1998), and Cameroon, Mexico, Morocco, Norway and Romania (1999).



11 Concluding Observations on Italy, 24 April 2006, para. 19.

12 Promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, UN Doc. E/CN.4/1999/64, 29 January 1999, para. 28.

13 See Promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, UN Doc. E/CN.4/2000/63, 18 January 2000, para. 52 and Promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, UN Doc. E/CN.4/2001/64, 26 January 2001.

14 See, for example, Resolution 2003/42, 23 April 2003, para. 3(a).

15 Joint Declaration of 10 December 2002.

16 Castells v. Spain, 23 April 1992, para 46.

It should also be noted that in October 2000, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights adopted a Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression. Paragraph 10 of this Declaration states, among other things: “The protection of a person’s reputation should only be guaranteed through civil sanctions in those cases in which the person offended is a public official, a public person or a private person who has voluntarily become involved in matters of public interest.” Adopted at the 108th Regular Session, 19 October 2000.



17 Lingens v. Austria, 8 July 1986, Application No. 9815/82, para. 44.

18 Tolstoy Miloslavsky v. the United Kingdom, 13 July 1995, Application No.18139/91, para.49.

19 Castells v. Spain, 23 April 1992, Application No. 11798/85, para.46.

20 6 February 2001, para. 69. See also Constantinescu v. Romania, 21 March 2000.






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