Declaration on Criminal Defamation in the Americas

Journalists, freedom of expression, and press freedom advocates gathered in New York on September 10, 2004 welcome the decision by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the case of Mauricio Herrera Ulloa, as well as the concurring opinion by President Judge García Ramírez. The decision and concurrence raise important questions about the compatibility of criminal defamation with the right of freedom of expression.

Criminal defamation is a disproportionate and unnecessary response to the need to protect reputations. Civil defamation laws provide sufficient redress for all those who claim to have been defamed. Furthermore, there should be no liability unless the defendant acted with disregard for the truth. Civil defamation laws should provide no special protection for public figures. In cases of public interest, plaintiffs should be required to demonstrate that the defamatory information is false. Any remedies awarded in civil cases should be proportionate to the demonstrated harm caused.

We pledge to work for the complete elimination of criminal defamation laws in this hemisphere and to support and defend journalists prosecuted under existing criminal defamation laws.

Affirmed by the following:

The Committee to Protect Journalists
Article 19
World Press Freedom Committee
Open Society Institute Justice Initiative
Colegio de Periodistas de Costa Rica
Center For Justice and International Law
La Nación of San José, Costa Rica