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IPI's work on Criminal Defamation

The International Press Institute's (IPI) goal is to abolish criminal libel laws, ensuring that there is a proper balance between the right to reputation and press freedom...

IPI’s work on defamation laws

The International Press Institute’s (IPI) goal is to ensure that defamation laws are not abused to silence journalistic reporting in the public interest. Abolishing criminal libel laws is a critical step toward ensuring a proper balance between the right to reputation and media freedom. 

IPI‘s Campaign in the Caribbean:

In 2012, IPI launched a campaign to abolish criminal defamation laws in the Caribbean. An antiquated legacy of the region’s colonial past, these laws carry harsh sanctions and may be misused by state institutions to discourage or punish critical reporting.

Our goal

To abolish criminal defamation and insult laws in the Caribbean, and to show support for a strong, free and independent media in the region.

Our work

IPI has carried out two advocacy missions to the Caribbean, working closely with key legislators and government officials to support reform of defamation laws in line with regional and international standards.Furthermore, working closely with the Association of Caribbean MediaWorkers, an IPI partner, we have conducted close monitoring of press-freedom issues in the region and issued numerous public statements.

Our results

Our Caribbean Campaign has already spurred Jamaica, Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago to fully or partially decriminalise defamation. Our advocacy has also led to the introduction of reform bills in the parliaments of Antigua and Barbuda and the Dominican Republic.

IPI‘s Campaign in Europe: Out of Balance

Despite their reputation as press freedom defenders, nearly all EU member states maintain criminal defamation laws on the books. These laws both restrict the free flow of information at home and set a dangerous example for less democratic regimes around the globe.

Our goal

To research the status of defamation laws in the EU and their effect on press freedom; and to advocate with EU governments to amend existing laws to bring them in line with the recommendations of intergovernmental human rights bodies and tribunals.

Our work

In summer 2014, IPI released its “Out of Balance” report, detailing the legal situation of defamation in all 28 EU member states and 5 candidate countries.

Together with local and international partners, IPI is developing a curriculum to improve the knowledge of journalists and lawyers about defamation laws in their countries as well as relevant international and European standards. The first  series of seminars based on this curriculum have already begun in Macedonia/FYROM, Croatia, Spain and Portugal.

In a series of public events and official visits, IPI will highlight the negative effects of criminal defamation laws on the free flow of information and advocate for comprehensive legal reform.

Our (expected) results

 IPI’s research has provided much-needed evidence about the troubling situation of defamation laws in the EU and their effects on journalists. This evidence will serve as a critical tool for advocacy efforts being carried out by IPI and by other organisations interested in bringing about change.

  • Legislative changes in EU countries that generate a domino effect on other countries either in the same region or with the same legislative tradition, such as former colonies.
  • Increased knowledge about defamation laws among journalists, editors and lawyers that will empower them to defend their right to report in the public interest and that will allow them to raise public awareness about the abuse of such laws. 

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