As reported by the International Press Institute, new draft legislation, recently introduced in Greece could pave the way for wider freedom of the press in the country. The proposed legislation is currently undergoing open consultation. The law this new legislation aims to reform, is commonly referred to as the “press killer,” Greece’s current civil defamation law. This reform would eliminate minimum compensation requirements for defamation and would implement mandatory pre-trial periods to allow for media outlets to publish retractions before being subject to prosecution. This retraction period would protect the media from being subject to damages, unless material harm was proven.
The International Press Institute and the South East Europe Media Organisation see this proposed legislation as a move towards more freedom of the press in Greece. However, this small victory will be less meaningful unless it is also accompanied by the repeal of the current criminal defamation laws, which “produce an industry of vexatious claims against the press at a time in which the country needs investigative journalism, and a watchdog media more than ever.” Currently, Greece includes defamation in the countries penal code. Allowing for criminal penalties in defamation cases has been repeatedly ruled to violate freedom of the press by other courts and by the European Court of Human Rights. Even if these sentences are not carried out, by providing for them in the countries penal code, this is “prima facie disproportionate.” Several other European States have already repealed their criminal defamation legislation.
Global Freedom of Expression will continue to track the progress of this bill along with the International Press Institute.