Critics Not Criminals: Foreword

Despite a growing consensus that criminal defamation laws should be abolished, there has been an alarming resurgence of their use in the Americas. From North America to South America, over two-thirds of the governments in the region routinely use these laws to silence dissent and to deprive citizens of information on matters of public interest. Even in countries where criminal defamation laws are not actively enforced, their existence continues to have a significant impact on the willingness and ability of individuals and media organizations to discuss key issues, posing as a very tangible threat to freedom of expression.


Critics Are Not Criminals: Comparative Study of Criminal Defamation Laws in the Americas
Critics Are Not Criminals: Comparative Study of Criminal Defamation Laws in the Americas

At the Thomson Reuters Foundation, we stand for free, independent journalism, human rights, and the rule of law. This publication makes a notable contribution to our understanding of the chilling effect that criminal defamation laws can have on freedom of expression in the Americas, and it highlights best and worst practices that can guide advocacy efforts for legal reform. The report surveys the existence and enforcement of criminal defamation laws and other laws criminalizing or restricting speech across the Americas, including their application to growing methods of news dissemination such as the Internet and mobile communications.

This report is produced through a close collaboration between the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), and a team of dedicated lawyers around the world. Debevoise & Plimpton played a leading role in producing the guide, together with Benedetti & Benedetti, Brigard Urrutia, Cariola Díez Pérez-Cotapos & Cía. Ltda, Díaz Durán & Asociados, Estudio Rodrigo, Elias & Medrano, Medina, Rosenthal & Asociados, Molina & Asociados, Norton Rose Fulbright, Quirós Abogados, Rose & Co. Attorneys at Law, and Rusconi, Medina & Asociados. We are extremely grateful to the contributing teams of lawyers who tirelessly and generously committed their time and expertise to make this report possible.

We are hopeful that this publication will serve as a useful tool to raise public awareness around criminal defamation, and to effectively support journalists, legislators, advocates and citizens in the fight to end this repressive trend.

TrustLaw Team