Sign up for weekly updates

Sedition law to be scrapped, finally

After years of lobbying the UK government to remove repressive defamation and sedition laws from the books, it appears ARTICLE 19's campaigning has paid off.

On 10 July, UK Justice Minister Lord Bach announced a proposed amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill to do away with the laws of sedition, seditious libel and defamatory libel.

"Sedition and defamatory libel are arcane offences from a bygone era when freedom of expression wasn't seen as the right it is today," Bach said in parliament.

The amendment was put forward in the House of Commons by Member of Parliament and ARTICLE 19 board member, Dr Evan Harris. Parliament is expected to vote in favour of the amendment in October.

While the laws had largely fallen into disuse in the UK, their existence on the books "provides more repressive governments around the world with the excuse they need not only to refuse to repeal defamation laws but also to make active use of such laws to imprison journalists, writers and others," said ARTICLE 19.

Of 168 countries surveyed by ARTICLE 19, 158 have criminal defamation laws and 113 countries have laws offering special protection from criticism to the most powerful and privileged figures in public life.

Other countries that have recently struck down criminal defamation include Bosnia & Herzegovina, Estonia, Georgia, Ukraine, Ghana, Sri Lanka, the United States, New Zealand and Mexico.

"This measure will send a very strong and clear signal globally that democracies do not have criminal defamation laws," says Dr Agnès Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19.

Related stories on
  • Government to decriminalise defamation

    The government of the United Kingdom has formally committed to decriminalising defamation by doing away with the common law offences of sedition, seditious libel and defamatory libel.

Latest Tweet:

Several journalists say US border agents questioned them about migrant coverage…

Get more stories like this

Sign up for our newsletters and get the most important free expression news delivered to your inbox.