Nov 16, 2009:The Pacific Freedom Forum welcomes news of law changes dropping criminal defamation in the United Kingdom, as reported by media freedom organisation Article 19. "Pacific lawmakers and leaders in nations where criminal defamation still exists should look at doing the same and we would welcome and support a review building on the scoping done by the AusAID 'Informing Ctitizens' report of 2005," says PFF Chair Susuve Laumaea, of Papua New Guinea.
"Not only are many of our jurisdictions based on the Westminstersystem, but a review will also help Pacific people understand they are already protected from libel and slander by civil defamation laws, which rely on truth as a defence." This is not the case in criminal defamation, where plaintiffs have to prove truth as well as convince a court their information was published in the public interest. "This gray area of what the public should and should not know can be open to abuse and as we see in the Pacific, is most often used by governments to silence and censor media outlets. This leads to the well-known 'chilling effect' where journalists and their bosses self-censor because of the threat and cost of a criminal defamation case," says Co-chair Monica Miller of American Samoa.
"PFF is keen to assist progress on the initial work research presenting the Pacific media situation and the legislation chapter in the AusAID report. It's clear there are questions and changes which have come up since 2005 and the implications of the law change from the UK should be looked at in an objective way," she says. "Importantly, a regional legislative update on decriminalising defamation must also take into account the need to raise public awareness on defamation, and the issue of information published on the internet." ENDS
Link to Article 19 release: