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Draft law to decriminalise defamation should apply to all citizens, not just journalists, says C-Libre

(PROBIDAD/IFEX) - On 9 October 2007, Rodolfo Irías Navas, representative of the Partido Nacional party, presented a draft law to Congress, designed to protect journalists and media owners from criminal charges related to their work. The proposed law does not protect citizens at large from criminal prosecution for expressing their opinions, noted legal experts who are members of C-Libre.

The draft law proposes amendments to two articles of the Penal Code, disallowing criminal prosecution of the press for libel or defamation.

The proposed amendment to Article 163 indicates that, when dealing with actions of the press - encompassing journalists as well as the owners or manager of media outlets - only civil charges may be applied. The proposed amendment to Article 164 states: "owners and managers of media outlets are required to make available the offending material . . . and to respond to any civil ruling."

The amendments, although they free the press from criminal action for libel or defamation, fail to decriminalize these offences altogether, observe C-Libre's legal experts. Such legislative reform should be universal, and should not privilege press professionals, since freedom of expression is not the unique right of journalists alone, but a fundamental right that all Hondurans should enjoy.

This alert was prepared by PROBIDAD with information provided by the Committee for Free Expression (Comité por la Libre Expresión, C-Libre).

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