Content Regulation / Censorship, Defamation / Reputation, Political Expression
The Case of Sarawak Report and Malaysia Insider
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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.”
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 indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
This case contracts expression because it inhibits freedom of press with a particular focus on the prohibition of criticizing the government.
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Article 195, which was enshrined after the revolution in Law 5/2014
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