Council of Europe aims to decriminalise libel

2nd May 2006, Comments 0 comments

STRASBOURG, France, May 2, 2006 (AFP) - The Council of Europe called on Tuesday, the eve of World Press Freedom Day, for the abolition of laws that threaten journalists with heavy penalties for libel.

STRASBOURG, France, May 2, 2006 (AFP) - The Council of Europe called on Tuesday, the eve of World Press Freedom Day, for the abolition of laws that threaten journalists with heavy penalties for libel.

The council's secretary general, Terry Davis, said libel — which he called "a particularly insidious form of intimidation" — should be decriminalised because such laws are "often used to stifle criticism."

"No one can suppress the truth forever, but some people never stop trying. It is the journalists who pay the price," Davis said in a statement.

He noted that more than two thirds of the council's 46 member states "maintain criminal sanctions for defamation," and he called on those nations to abolish criminal provisions and heavy damages in civil cases against journalists.

He also said that last year more than 150 journalists around the world died while carrying out their profession, more than half of them murdered.

In the council's member states journalists "are no longer tortured or killed, but that does not mean that they are always free to do their work," Davis said.

He added that the European Convention on Human Rights is often ignored by governments that interfere with the freedom of expression.

"Some journalists may be silenced through intimidation, others may be bought into compliance, but the end result remains the same because democracy cannot properly function without media which is genuinely free of governmental interference and control," Davis said.

"Progress in the protection of journalists is the only credible way to mark the World Press Freedom Day" on Wednesday.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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