Global Freedom of Expression

The Case of Amara Al-Khatabi

Contracts Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Press / Newspapers
  • Date of Decision
    November 21, 2014
  • Outcome
    Imprisonment, Criminal Sanctions
  • Case Number
  • Region & Country
    Libya, Middle East and North Africa
  • Judicial Body
    First Instance Court
  • Type of Law
    Criminal Law
  • Themes
    Content Regulation / Censorship, Defamation / Reputation, Political Expression, Press Freedom
  • Tags
    Criminal Defamation

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

Newspaper editor, Amara al-Khatabi, was sentenced by a Libyan criminal court with a five-year prison term for publishing a defamatory article. The court held that under article 195 of the Gaddafi-era penal code, the publication of an article that exposed members of the public judiciary for corruption was defamatory and thus punishable under the code.


On November 21, 2012, Al-Ummah, a Libyan newspaper edited by Amara al-Khatabi, published an article titled “The Black List of the Judiciary.” This article detailed corruption within the public judiciary and named several judges and prosecutors who had accepted bribes and other illegal earnings. On August 17, 2014, a Libyan criminal court convicted al-Khatabi in absentia of defamation for allowing this article to be published in Al-Ummah. In addition to the five-year prison term, the court also sentenced al-Khatabi to pay damages to the plaintiffs and banned him from “practicing journalism for the duration of his prison sentenced.”

Decision Overview

The court primarily based its conviction on article 195 of the Gaddafi-era penal code, which was enshrined in Libya’s current laws via Law 5/2014. Essentially, this article holds that “any person who may launch what may be regarded as an attack against the Great Fateh Revolution or its leader shall be punishable by imprisonment…The same penalty shall be levied against any person who insults the popular authority, a judicial, defense, or security body.” Therefore, the court held that the article which described several members of the public judiciary as corrupt violated this provision, and thus, al-Khatabi was fined and sentenced to a five-year prison term.

Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Contracts Expression

This case contracts expression because it inhibits freedom of press with a particular focus on the prohibition of criticizing the government.

Global Perspective

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Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

National standards, law or jurisprudence

  • Libya, Penal Code

    Article 195, which was enshrined after the revolution in Law 5/2014

Case Significance

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Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

This case did not set a binding or persuasive precedent either within or outside its jurisdiction. The significance of this case is undetermined at this point in time.

Official Case Documents

Reports, Analysis, and News Articles:

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