Recently in Critics Are Not Criminals Campaign Against the Criminalization of Speech Category


Here's how you can get involved in this important issue:

Learn More

Be informed. Read about the use of criminal defamation laws as a tool to silence dissent, and learn about the campaign against this criminalization of speech. Read CPJ documents, key legislation, and jurisprudence on the issue.

Raise Awareness (English)

Use Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks to inform your contacts about this threat to free speech in the Americas. On Twitter, follow @pressfreedom, retweet our defamation-related posts, and tweet relevant information at us. Use the #defamation hashtag in your tweets to be sure you are seen by Twitter users interested in defamation issues.

Raise Awareness (En Español)

Follow @CPJAmericas to read about defamation and other press freedom issues in the Americas. This account, managed by our Americas program staff, will tweet entirely in Spanish. You can tweet relevant Spanish-language information at this account and RT its tweets to your followers. Make sure you use the #defamation hashtag in all of your own tweets.


Court and legislatures in the Americas have increasingly found that defamation should be a civil matter. Here are some key resources in support of free expression.

International conventions & declarations

  • The Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression, adopted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2000, asserts that criminal defamation laws violate freedom of expression guarantees and that public officials should be subject to greater scrutiny.
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1948, establishes in Article 19 that: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."
  • Adopted at the ninth international conference of American states, which also established the Organization of American States, the declaration on human rights establishes the right to freedom of expression in Article 4.
  • The American Convention on Human Rights, also known as the Pact of San José, took effect in 1978 and set the legal framework for human rights in the Inter-American system.
  • A joint declaration by special rapporteurs for the United Nations, the Organization of American States, and the Organization for Co-Operation and Security in Europe called for slander and libel laws worldwide to be brought in line with international principles on freedom of expression. DECLARATION


Inter-American system

United States

National Laws


Here are notable reports on defamation from CPJ's archives:


  • In 2010, courts in Colombia, Costa Rica, and Chile followed the growing regional consensus against criminal defamation by dismissing criminal penalties against journalists accused of libel and slander. Continue reading »
  • In its 2000 Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights stated that criminal defamation laws violate freedom of expression guarantees and that public officials should be subject to greater scrutiny. Continue reading »


  • CPJ first launched a campaign against criminal defamation in 2000 with a meeting of prominent journalists, lawyers, and academics from throughout the Americas, who gathered in Buenos Aires. The conference, co-hosted by the Argentine press group Periodistas, called for the repeal of criminal-defamation laws. Continue reading »
  • The Argentine Senate's 2009 approval of a government-sponsored bill that repeals criminal defamation provisions from the penal code was a "landmark decision in the campaign to repeal criminal defamation in the Americas." Continue reading »


  • The Brazilian Supreme Federal Tribunal's 2009 decision to strike down the 1967 Press Law, a measure that imposed harsh penalties for libel and slander, was a crucial step forward in the campaign to eliminate criminal defamation laws in the Americas. Continue reading »
  • In 2005, CPJ International Press Freedom Award winner and Brazilian journalist Lúcio Flávio Pinto was unable to come to New York and accept his prize because of a series of punitive criminal lawsuits in his hometown. Continue reading »


  • CPJ's 2001 amicus curiae brief to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in the case of Chilean journalist Alejandra Matus argued that that journalists should never face criminal liability for what they write, broadcast, or publish. Matus ultimately prevailed. Continue reading »

Costa Rica

  • In a key 2001 decision, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued provisional measures granting a Costa Rican newspaper relief in a freedom of expression case. Continue reading »
  • The Inter-American Court of Human Rights overturned in 2004 a criminal defamation sentence imposed against Costa Rican journalist Mauricio Herrera Ulloa. CPJ submitted an amicus curiae brief to IACHR in support of Herrera Ulloa Continue reading »
  • In 2009, a Costa Rican Supreme Court ruling eliminated prison terms for defamation, although the offense remained on the penal code. Continue reading »


  • U.N. nations urge the Correa administration to take a number of steps to improve the country's declining press freedom situation. Seventeen nations made recommendations as part of the U.N.'s regular review of Ecuador's human rights record, Belgium was among those speaking out: "We have reports on freedom of expression abuses, the improper use of criminal law, and persecution of journalists." Continue reading »
  • A CPJ special report by Carlos Lauría found that President Rafael Correa's administration has led Ecuador into a new era of widespread repression by pre-empting private news broadcasts, enacting restrictive legal measures, smearing critics, and filing debilitating defamation lawsuits. Continue reading »
  • In February 2012, Correa announced that he would pardon several news managers and journalists he had sued for libel. But Correa's actions in the case had already done grave damage to free expression in his country, CPJ said. Continue reading »
  • Pedro Nikken, president of the International Commission of Jurists, and former president of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, criticized the Ecuadoran government's prosecution of El Universo: "The ruling President Correa has obtained from the docile Ecuadoran judiciary has been molded to his whims, and it has a clear objective: to teach them a lesson." Continue reading »


  • President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa signed legislation in 2007 that effectively eliminated criminal defamation, libel, and slander at the federal level, making Mexico the second country in Latin America to repeal defamation as a criminal offense. Continue reading »


  • The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled in 2004 that a criminal defamation conviction and prosecution against Paraguayan journalist Ricardo Canese violated Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees freedom of expression. Continue reading »


  • The Peruvian Supreme Court overturned a ruling in 2010 that sentenced Peruvian journalist Alejandro Carrascal Carrasco to one year in prison on defamation charges. Continue reading »
  • A 2011 Peruvian Supreme Court ruling overturned a defamation conviction against journalist Paul Segundo Garay Ramírez. The court freed Garay, who had spent more than six months in prison. Continue reading »

Here are organizations fighting against the criminalization of speech in the Americas.

Critics Are Not Criminals

Campaign Against the Criminalization of Speech

Freedom of expression in all its forms and manifestations is a fundamental and inalienable right of all individuals. Additionally, it is an indispensable requirement for the very existence of a democratic society. -- Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Principles of Freedom of Expression



Free speech in
peril in Ecuador

Intolerant of dissent, President Correa abuses his authority to crush the free speech rights of his citizens, writes Pedro Nikken, former president of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Right, Correa backers burn newspapers.
Correa's regional assault
Video: Confrontation
Record of repression

A Regional Consensus

Courts and legislatures throughout the Americas have increasingly found that defamation should be a civil, not criminal, matter. Details »

From CPJ's Archives

In special reports, blog posts, and protest letters, CPJ has denounced criminal defamation as a tool to silence critical coverage. Details »

Resource Center

Freedom of expression groups are fighting against the criminalization of speech. Look here for background and contact information. Details »

Get Involved

You can make a difference by raising awareness and identifying attacks on free expression. Join our Twitter campaign. Details »

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