International Press Institute has issued a publication on Defamation Law in the European Union and its Effect on Press Freedom. It is a provisional overview for journalists, civil society, and policymakers, the final version will be released in the upcoming months.
The findings are presented in the form of a comparative analysis of defamation law in the 28 EU member states and five of six official EU candidate countries. The initial findings indicate that the vast majority of EU member states maintain criminal defamation provisions that provide imprisonment as a possible punishment. In the majority of the EU member states where these provisions still exist, prosecutions continue to be carried out and journalists continue to be sentenced to criminal punishments. Standard defences, such as truth and good faith, are broadly lacking in both criminal and civil formal law; where they do exist, illegitimate restrictions water down their effectiveness.
I am proud to be consulted on the issue regarding the Czech Republic as the IPI research and the published summary serves as an important source for both legal professionals as well as journalists and individuals. The full report is available here.
The Czech Republic belongs to standard EU states in respect of lengths of prison sentences (maximum of 24 months) and exceptionally from the others member states defines the offence of defamation, restricting it to false information that may damage a person’s reputation. Czech courts have clearly recognised a right of reasonable publication for journalists and in some cases set specific standards on which courts should consider such cases.
The research so far led to a roundtable that raises alarm over defamation law in Slovakia. Slovakia has the highest possible imprisonment in the whole EU – 8 years and in respect of civil defamation, the lack of caps on damages has severe consequences. More details on roundtable are available here.
Czech Defamation Law will provide a post on Slovakia defamation in the upcoming months with a consultation of Slovakia barristers.