Defamation and Insult Laws in the OSCE Region: A Comparative Study

This study examines the existence of criminal defamation and insult laws in the territory of the 57 participating States of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). In doing so, it offers a broad, comparative overview of the compliance of OSCE participating States’ legislation with international standards and best practices in the field of defamation law and freedom of expression.

The primary purpose of the study is to identify relevant provisions in law. Although the study does include examples of the usage of these provisions, it is not an analysis of legal practice. Where prudent, the study provides basic information about national courts’ interpretation of the law insofar as is necessary to understand the objective component of the provision. However, due to constraints of time and resources, the study does not delve into court standards on application in any great detail.

The study is divided into two sections. The first section offers conclusions according to each of the principal categories researched and in reference to international standards on freedom of expression. The second section provides the detailed research findings for each country, including relevant examples.

As the study’s title suggests, the primary research category is general criminal laws on defamation and insult. However, this study also covers special laws protecting the reputation or honour of particular persons or groups of people (e.g., presidents, public officials, deceased persons); special laws protecting the ‘honour’ of the state and state symbols; and blasphemy and religious insult laws.

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* - References to Kosovo are without prejudice to positions on status. They are in line with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244/99 and the opinion by the International Court of Justice on the Kosovo declaration of independence.