Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović today released a comparative study “Defamation and Insult Laws in the OSCE Region” finding that criminal law remains an instrument to excessively limit media freedom.

Commissioned by the representative and conducted by International Press Institute (IPI) Director of Press Freedom Programmes Scott Griffen and IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi, the study examines the existence of criminal defamation and insult laws in the territory of the 57 OSCE participating states.

It offers a broad, comparative overview of the compliance of participating states’ legislation with international standards and best practices in the field of defamation law and freedom of expression.

The study is divided into two sections. The first offers conclusions according to each of the principal categories of criminal defamation researched with reference to international standards on free expression. The second provides detailed research findings for each OSCE participating state, including relevant examples.

Trionfi said the report was intended to point out the broad impact such laws can have.

“The existence and use of criminal defamation laws – alongside a set of laws aimed at offering greater protection to heads of state, public officials and state symbols – represent a threat to critical independent journalism and hinder the scrutiny of those in power, which is the legitimate and democratic function of journalism,” she said.

Mijatović used the occasion to call on authorities of OSCE participating states “to ensure that criminal laws do not stand in the way of free and pluralistic media”. She added: “Pursuing decriminalisation of defamation has been the standing policy of this institution, as well as other international and regional human rights bodies in Europe.”

The full text of the study can be found on the Media Freedom Representative’s website at