Art 19 , OSCE. publ 2006

Art 19 , OSCE. publ 2006:

“We welcome the abolition of the common law offences of blasphemous, obscene and seditious libel in section 34 of the Defamation Bill. We note with serious concern, however, the creation of a new offence of “publication of gravely harmful statements” in section 35(1), which may be punished by up to five years’ imprisonment. We further find it very worrying that provision is made for the summary conviction of a person who publishes a “gravely harmful statement” if the District Court considers the facts to constitute a “minor offence” fit to be tried summarily (section 35(5)), which may lead to imprisonment of up to 12 months. Neither of these provisions is appropriate in light of international standards governing defamation law. At the international level, the problems with criminal defamation laws are increasingly being exposed and criticised. The ECtHR has expressed its clear unease with criminal sanctions for defamation. For example, in the 2006 case of Raichinov v. Bulgaria, the ECtHR noted that criminal sanctions are appropriate only in certain grave cases, such as speech which incites violence. But in ordinary cases, the State’s use of criminal sanctions, rather than civil or disciplinary measures, will be a serious consideration as to whether or not the provision will satisfy the proportionality test.66 In its ruling, the ECtHR made express reference to earlier decisions expressing the same concern.67″

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