Available in Russian
Author: Aleksandr Kul'nev
Keywords: flicting rights; freedom of expression; freedom of speech; limits of rights; reputation
The vast majority of countries in the world have criminal defamation laws on the books. These are intended to resolve the conflict between two fundamental constitutional rights: that of freedom of expression, and that to defend one’s honor and good name (or reputation). In order to adjudicate such conflicts, legislators can choose between two approaches. They may consider one of conflicting rights more important to be protected while sacrificing the other. Alternatively, they may attempt to balance both rights, putting minimal restrictions on each. The idea underlying the first approach is often the implicit rationale for criminal defamation laws. An example in point could be arguments presented by members of the Russian parliament in supporting recriminalization of defamation in 2012. Prohibiting circulation of libelous information is justified solely on the basis of the evaluated damage it could inflict on someone’s reputation, taking no account of the consequences for freedom of expression. This approach is at odds with the very essence of constitutionalism, which requires that governments should protect all civil liberties at all times, not just those which seem important in any given situation. In contrast, the idea underlying the second approach – “balancing” – makes difficult justifying the criminalization of libel, especially when there is the availability of civil lawsuit, a proven and widely-used tool for the protection of reputation. With this in mind, the author of this article argues that criminalizing defamation is more likely to make problems for the system of civil liberties and constitutional rights than to support a satisfactory rights balance within it.
Citation: Kul'nev A. (2016) Kriminalizatsiya klevety: neobkhodimost' ili ugroza? [Criminal defamation: necessity or menace?]. Sravnitel'noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, no.4, pp.59–72. (In Russian).
Cherednichenko E.E. (2010) Kleveta i oskorblenie: ugolovno-pravovoy analiz (problemyi teorii i praktiki) [Libel and Insult: an analysis of criminal law (theoretical and practical issues)], Moscow: Yurlitinform. (In Russian).
Damer T. (1995) Attacking Faulty Reasoning: A Practical Guide to Fallacy-Free Arguments, 3rd ed., Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing.
Davidov M. (2006) Duel i smert A.S.Pushkina glazami sovremennogo khirurga [Duel and death of A.Pushkin through the eyes of the modern surgeon]. Ural, no.1. Available at: http://magazines.russ.ru/ural/2006/1/da10.html (accessed: 11.12.2015).
De Schutter O., Tulkens F. (2008) Rights in Conflict: the European Court of Human Rights as a Pragmatic Institution. In: Brems E. (ed.) Conflicts Between Fundamental Rights, Antwerp; Portland, OR: Intersentia, pp.169–216.
Duhovskoy M.V. (2009) Ponyatie klevetyi po deystvuyuschemu pravu [The concept of libel in the contemporary law]. Zakon, no.12, pp.228–241. (In Russian).
Durkheim É. (1897) Le suicide: étude de sociologie, Paris: F.Alcan (Russian ed.: Dyurkgeym E. (1994) Samoubiystvo: Sotsiologicheskiy etyud, Bazarov V.A. (ed.), Moscow: Mysl').
Hawton K., Saunders K.E., O'Connor R.C. (2012) Self-harm and suicide in adolescents. Lancet, vol.379, no.9834, pp.2373–2382.
Huzhokova I.M. (2006) Evolyutsiya soderzhaniya prava na neprikosnovennost' chastnoy zhizni v Rossii [Evolution of the Contents of the Right to Privacy in Russia]. Advokatskaya praktika, no.4, pp.2–5. (In Russian).
Joseph S., McBeth A. (eds.) (2010) Research Handbook on International Human Rights Law, Northhampton: Edward Elgar Publishing.
Koji T. (2001) Emerging Hierarchy in International Human Rights and Beyond: From the Perspective of Non-derogable Rights. European Journal of International Law, vol.12, no.5, pp.917–941.
Koroleva M.M. (2010) Vopros ob ugolovno-pravovoy zashchite chesti i dostoinstva v zakonodatelstve Rossiyskoy Federatsii [Protection of reputation by criminal law in the Russian Federation legislation]. Probely v rossiyskom zakonodatelstve, no.3, pp.168–170. (In Russian).
Kudryavtsev V.N. Nauchnye predposylki kriminalizatsii [Scientific preconditions for criminalization]. In: Kriminologiya i ugolovnaya politika [Criminology and criminal law policy], Moscow: Institute of State and Law of the Russian Academy of Sciences, pp.105–108. (In Russian).
Kuznetsova N.F., Tyazhkova I.M. (eds.) (2002) Kurs ugolovnogo prava. Obschaya chast. T.1: Uchenie o prestuplenii. Uchebnik dlya vuzov [The criminal law course. General part. Vol.1: Theory of the crime. University textbook], Moscow: Zertsalo. (In Russian).
Lewis A. (1991) Make No Law: The Sullivan Case and the First Amendment, New York: Random House.
Malyuta P. (2015) Criminalization of Defamation in Ukraine: A Step Towards Europe. Available at: http://jurist.org/ (accessed: 17.09.2015).
Mill J.St. (1863) On Liberty, Boston: Ticknor and Fields. (Russian edition: Mill Dzh.St. (2012) O grazhdanskoy svobode, Lovtsova M. (transl.), Moscow: Librokom).
Mitchell P. (2005) The Making of the modern Law of Defamation, Oxford: Hart Publishing.
Pylin V.V. (2013) Ugolovno-nakazuemaya kleveta mozhet li stat' raspravoy nad kritikami? V knige: Problemyi prava v sovremennoy Rossii: sbornik statey mezhdunarodnoy mezhvuzovskoy nauchno-prakticheskoy konferentsii [Can criminally prosecuted defamation be used for suppression of dissent? In: Problems of law in the contemporary Russia: Collection of articles of international intercollegiate research and practice conference], Saint Petersburg: Publishing House of the Polytechnic University, pp.307–321. (In Russian).
Rosenberg N. (1986) Protecting the Best Men: An Interpretive History of the Law of Libel (Studies in Legal History). Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.
Shchegolev P.E. (1987) Duel' i smert' Pushkina [Duel and the death of Pushkin], Moscow: Kniga. (In Russian)
Schwarz H. (2014) There are states where you technically can’t hold public office if you’re an atheist. Available at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/ (accessed: 12.12.2015).
Simoncini A., Cartabia M., Carozza P., Barsotti V. (2015) Italian Constitutional Justice in Global Context, New York: Oxford University Press.
Smet S. (2010) Freedom of expression and the right to reputation: human rights in conflict. American University International Law Review, no.26, no.1, pp.188–236.
Vijayakumar L., Kumar M.S., Vijayakumar V. (2011) Substance use and suicide. Current opinion in psychiatry, vol.24, no.3, pp.197–202.
Volevodz A.G. (2012) Nuzhno li vosstanovlenie ugolovnoy otvetstvennosti za klevetu? [Is Recriiminalisation of Libel Necessary?]. Available at: http://www.mgimo.ru/news/experts/document225916.phtml (accessed: 20.10.2015). (In Russian).
Wuerffel K.N. (1998) Discriminating among Rights: A Nation’s Legislating a Hierarchy of Human Rights in the Context of International Human Rights Customary Law. Valparaiso University Law Review, vol.33, no.1, pp.369–412.