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Puebla State decriminalises defamation

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 25 February 2011 - ARTICLE 19 welcomes the decriminalisation of defamation in Puebla State, following the adoption of reforms to the local Criminal Code. At the same time, the recent reform could be further improved by introducing a civil defamation regulation adjusted to international standards including the presence of actual malice and ensuring that those sued for defamation are able to mount a proper defense. Since Mexico has a problematic record on protection of freedom of expression, ARTICLE 19 hopes that this bill will persuade the remaining 15 states that still have criminal defamation laws in place to decriminalise defamation.

"We welcome the decriminalisation of defamation in Puebla," says Dario Ramirez, ARTICLE 19 Mexico Regional Director. "ARTICLE 19 is calling upon all remaining Mexican states, where defamation is still a crime, to repeal such laws as well."

ARTICLE 19 Mexico has been campaigning for decriminalisation of defamation in Mexican states for a number of years already, highlighting the chilling effect of these laws have on freedom of expression. We have been also monitoring criminal defamation cases in the country, which are being used by both officials and individuals to hinder investigative journalism. Use of criminal defamation laws to stifle free speech in Mexico has also been subject to international criticism, including by the UN Human Rights Committee in March 2010 which recommended the Mexican Government take steps to decriminalise defamation in all states.

Puebla's changes also include reforms for civil defamation regulation which provides maximum financial damages awarded in defamation cases. Although ARTICLE 19 provided inputs to the Congress to ensure the reform complied with international standards, the civil defamation reforms fail to fully comply with international standards in this area. For example, they do not recognize the defenses of truth, opinion, reasonable publication, absolute and qualified privileges, words of others, innocent publications, consent, and statute of limitations, to ensure a proper defense.

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