By Country: Freedom of Speech, Censorship, Defamation Laws

Liberty and Freedom

Freedom of Speech and Expression is the very foundation of LIBERTY.

And cockfighting is an individual liberty. A human right – cockfighting.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
—Article 1 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR)

Censorship laws, defamation laws, libel laws, and slander laws have to be repealed for the TRUE freedom of speech to water the tree of liberty.

Cybersex, cyberporn, sex, porn, and prostitution are freedom of expression between consenting individuals. Nude bodies are beautiful art of nature and not a crime.

  • United Nations Freedom of Speech
  • United States Freedom of Speech
  • United States Defamation Law
  • Philippines Freedom of Speech
  • Philippines Defamation Law
  • Freedom of Speech By Country
  • Defamation By Country
  • Censorship

United Nations Freedom of Speech

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, provides, in Article 19, that:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Technically, as a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly rather than a treaty, it is not legally binding in its entirety on members of the UN. Furthermore, whilst some of its provisions are considered to form part of customary international law, there is dispute as to which. Freedom of speech is granted unambiguous protection in international law by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which is binding on around 150 nations.

In adopting the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, Australia and the Netherlands insisted on reservations to Article 19 insofar as it might be held to affect their systems of regulating and licensing broadcasting.

United States Freedom of Speech

In the United States freedom of expression is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. There are several common law exceptions including obscenity, defamation, incitement, incitement to riot or imminent lawless action, fighting words, fraud, speech covered by government granted monopoly (copyright), and speech integral to criminal conduct. There are federal criminal law statutory prohibitions covering all the common law exceptions other than defamation, of which there is civil law liability, as well as making false statements (lying) in “matters within the jurisdiction” of the federal government, speech related to information decreed to be related to national security such as military and classified information, false advertising, perjury, privileged communications, trade secrets, copyright, and patents. Most states and localities have many identical restrictions, as well as harassment, and time, place and manner restrictions.

United States Defamation Law

The origins of US defamation law pre-date the American Revolution; one famous 1734 case involving John Peter Zenger sowed the seed for the later establishment of truth as an absolute defense against libel charges. The outcome of the case is one of jury nullification, and not a case where the defense acquitted itself as a matter of law. (Previous English defamation law had not provided the defense of truth.) Though the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was designed to protect freedom of the press, for most of the history of the United States, the Supreme Court neglected to use it to rule on libel cases. This left libel laws, based upon the traditional common law of defamation inherited from the English legal system, mixed across the states. The 1964 case New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, however, dramatically altered the nature of libel law in the United States by elevating the fault element for public officials to actual malice—that is, public figures could win a libel suit only if they could demonstrate the publisher’s “knowledge that the information was false” or that the information was published “with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not”. Later Supreme Court cases dismissed the claim for libel and forbade libel claims for statements that are so ridiculous to be clearly not true, or that involve opinionated subjects such as one’s physical state of being. Recent cases have addressed defamation law and the internet.

Defamation law in the United States is much less plaintiff-friendly than its counterparts in European and the Commonwealth countries. In the United States, a comprehensive discussion of what is and is not libel or slander is difficult, because the definition differs between different states, and under federal law. Some states codify what constitutes slander and libel together into the same set of laws. Criminal libel is rare or nonexistent, depending on the state. Defenses to libel that can result in dismissal before trial include the statement being one of opinion rather than fact or being “fair comment and criticism”. Truth is always a defense.

Most states recognize that some categories of statements are considered to be defamatory per se, such that people making a defamation claim for these statements do not need to prove that the statement was defamatory

Philippines Freedom of Speech

Article III Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines specifies that no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech or of expression. Some laws inconsistent with a broad application of this mandate are in force, however.

For example

  • Certain sections of the Flag and Heraldic Code require particular expressions and prohibit other expressions
  • Title thirteen of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines criminalizes libel and slander by act or deed (slander by deed is defined as “any act … which shall cast dishonor, discredit or contempt upon another person.”), providing penalties of fine or imprisonment. In 2012, acting on a complaint by an imprisoned broadcaster who dramatised a newspaper account reporting that a particular politician was seen running naked in a hotel when caught in bed by the husband of the woman with whom he was said to have spent the night, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights ruled that the criminalization of libel violates freedom of expression and is inconsistent with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, commenting that “Defamations laws should not … stifle freedom of expression” and that “Penal defamation laws should include defense of truth.”

Philippines Defamation Law

Title thirteen of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines addresses Crimes Against Honor. Chapter one of that title addresses libel and slander. Libel is defined as “public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.” Slander is defined as oral defamation. Slander by deed is defined as “any act not included and punished in this title, which shall cast dishonor, discredit or contempt upon another person.” Penalties of fine or imprisonment are specified for these crimes and for the threat of libel. A notable characteristic of these crimes under Philippine law is the specification that they apply to imputations both real and imaginary.

In 2012, the Philippines enacted Republic Act 10175, titled The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. Essentially, this Act provides that libel is criminally punishable and describes it as: “Libel – the unlawful or prohibited act as defined in Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, committed through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future.” Professor Harry Roque of the University of the Philippines has written that under this law, electronic libel is punished with imprisonment from 6 years and one day to up to 12 years. As of 30 September 2012, five petitions claiming the law to be unconstitutional had been filed with the Philippine Supreme Court, one by Senator Teofisto Guingona III. The petitions all claim that the law infringes on freedom of expression, due process, equal protection and privacy of communication.

Censorship

Censorship is the suppression of speech or other public communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient as determined by a government, media outlet, or other controlling body. It can be done by governments and private organizations or by individuals who engage in self-censorship. It occurs in a variety of different contexts including speech, books, music, films and other arts, the press, radio, television, and the Internet for a variety of reasons including national security, to control obscenity, child pornography, and hate speech, to protect children, to promote or restrict political or religious views, to prevent slander and libel, and to protect intellectual property. It may or may not be legal. Many countries provide strong protections against censorship by law, but none of these protections are absolute and it is frequently necessary to balance conflicting rights in order to determine what can and cannot be censored.

One thought on “By Country: Freedom of Speech, Censorship, Defamation Laws

  1. Pingback: Decriminalising Libel in the Philippines | International Political Forum

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