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IPI disappointed at passing of criminal code reforms extending criminal defamation liability

(IPI/IFEX) - The following is an IPI press release:

IPI Expresses Disappointment at Final Passage of Changes to Slovene Criminal Code Extending Criminal Defamation Liability

Vienna, 21 May 2008 - The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in over 120 countries, expresses its disappointment at the adoption of a package of reforms to the Slovene penal code, which includes amendments that expand liability for criminal defamation.

According to information before IPI, a government-backed bill containing sweeping reforms to the Slovene criminal code was introduced to the Slovene Parliament on 28 January 2008. The controversial proposal includes provisions expanding liability in cases of criminal defamation, holding both authors and either editors or publishers responsible for published material deemed defamatory.

The reform bill was accorded "urgent" status, and was thus fast-tracked through the Slovene National Assembly, where it passed its third reading on 24 April, despite being criticised by various political parties and experts in the legal and media spheres.

In a final effort to prevent the bill from becoming law, the Slovene National Council on 29 April returned the proposed package of amendments to the National Assembly for a revote, on the basis that the package was accepted "without the consensus of legal experts," that the "broader public opposes such drastic changes to criminal legislation," and that it was "accepted too fast, and without a real necessity for such changes." The Council also warned that the reforms signaled a swing to "authoritarian" and "repressive" ways. The National Council's decision obliged the National Assembly to vote one more time on the bill, and to back it with an absolute majority for it to become law.

At the revote on 20 May, the bill was approved by the National Assembly with a majority of 49 votes out of a possible 90. This effectively means that the new bill will become law as of 1 November 2008, as no further measures remain to halt its adoption.

"We are disappointed that the National Assembly failed to seize its second chance to exclude the bill's problematic provisions, which represent a step backwards for Slovenia and serve as a severe hindrance to the much needed open dialogue between the government and the media," commented David Dadge, IPI Director.

Updates alert on the criminal code reform to extend defamation liability: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/92897

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