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In India, online campaign seeks to free press from risk of criminal defamation

Excerpt of a CPJ blog post originally published on cpj.org on 14 October 2016.

By Aayush Soni/CPJ India Correspondent

An online campaign to decriminalize defamation in India is being led by a member of the country's main opposition party. "Criminal defamation can lead to people being put in jail for something they have said publicly. This law needs to be replaced by a modern, progressive law," reads the statement on the campaign website.

The campaign, set up last month by Tathagata Satpathy, of the Biju Janata Dal party, along with journalists, lawyers, and public policy professionals, is the latest attempt to decriminalize a law created in the 19th century.

Sections 499, 500, 501, and 502 of India's penal code stipulate a two-year jail term if a person is found guilty of defamation either via text, speech, or visuals. Previous attempts to strike the law from the books have failed. In a chunkily-worded judgment in May, India's Supreme Court ruled that criminal defamation will remain on the statute books, saying, "'Reputation' of one cannot be allowed to be crucified at the altar of the other's right of free speech."

Read the full blog post on CPJ's site.

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