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Freedom of expression: UN expert welcomes decriminalisation of defamation in the Maldives

GENEVA (1 December 2009) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, welcomed the adoption of a Bill by the Parliament of the Maldives to remove the provisions in the Penal Code which criminalise defamation.

“I welcome this positive step taken by the Parliament and the implementation of one of the recommendations that I had made following my official visit to the Maldives in March this year,” said La Rue*.

The Bill, adopted by the Parliament on 23 November, abolishes articles 150 through 166 of the Penal Code which deal with defamation of a person’s “name, integrity, or dignity,” which carried a sentence of exile, house detention or fine.

“I urge all States which have not already done so to repeal criminal defamation laws in favour of civil laws. In addition, any provisions that allow public officials to bring defamation suits with regard to their actions in public office should be totally eliminated,” stressed the expert.

“I look forward to the implementation of other recommendations that I have made following the visit to the Maldives,” La Rue also added, “including the adoption of an antimonopoly legislation particularly with regard to communications, and to ensure that the Telecommunications Act is passed to guarantee the independence of the Telecommunications Authority.”

(*) The Special Rapporteur’s report on his official visit to the Maldives, 1-5 March 2009: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/opinion/visits.htm