Art. 48: Insult committed by the same means of bodies and persons designated in
Arts. 45 and 46 is punishable by a fine of 50,000 to 100,000 dirhams (approx.
US$6,350 -$12,700). Insult by the same means against private individuals is
punishable by a fine of 5,000 to 50,000 dirhams (approx. US$635-$6,350), when
the insult was not provoked.
Art. 49: The truth of a defamatory fact, solely when it is in relation to an official
function or duty, may be established by normal channels in cases of allegations
against constituent bodies, the army, navy or air force, government and against the
persons listed by Art. 46. The truth of defamatory or insulting allegations may also
be established against directors or administrators of any industrial, commercial or
financial enterprise that solicits savings or credit from the public. Those designated
as legally responsible for the publication must before publication hold evidence
establishing the published facts.
The truth of defamatory facts may always be proven, except:
a) when the allegation concerns the private life of the person,
b) when the allegation refers to facts that are more than ten years old,
c) when the allegation refers to an amnestied infraction that has been amnestied or
subjected to the statute of limitations or that has been expunged by rehabilitation or
Art. 50: Any republication of an allegation that has been ruled defamatory shall be
deemed to have been made in bad faith, unless the person responsible proves the
Art. 51: Anyone who transmits, through the post and telegraph service or by other
electronic means, open correspondence containing defamation, either against
individuals or against constituted bodies or persons enumerated in Arts. 41, 45, 46,
52, and 53, shall be punished by a maximum term of imprisonment of one month, a
fine of 1,200 to 5,000 dirhams (approx. US$152-$635) or both.
If the correspondence contains an insult, that transmission will be punishable by a
term of imprisonment of six days to two months and a fine of 200 to 1,200 dirhams
(approx. US$25-$152). Where the facts at issue are those specified in Art. 41, the
punishment shall be imprisonment of one to six months and a fine of 1,200 to
Art. 51 bis: Anyone who has published allegations, facts or photographs infringing
the private life of a third person is punishable with a term of imprisonment of one
to six months, a fine of 5,000 to 20,000 dirhams (approx. US$635-$2,500) or both.
Art. 52: Offensive statements in public against the persons of chiefs of State and
their dignity, chiefs of government, and foreign ministers of foreign countries are
punishable by a term of imprisonment of one month to one year and a fine of
10,000 to 100,000 dirhams (approx. US$1,270-$12,700) or solely one of those
Art. 53: Offenses committed publicly against the person and dignity of a foreign
diplomatic or consular agent officially accredited or assigned to Our Majesty are
punishable by a term of imprisonment of one to six months, a fine of 5,000 to
30,000 dirhams (approx. US$635-$3,820) or both.
Art. 57: No suits for defamation, insult or contempt will be admitted for accurate
accounts of legal debates produced in good faith nor of statements or writings
introduced before the courts. Nevertheless, judges who rule on the substance of the
cases may strike from the record insulting, contemptuous or defamatory statements
and sentence those responsible to payment of damages.
Judges may, in such circumstances, impose injunctions on lawyers and even
suspend them. Such a suspension may not exceed one month, or three months if
the offense is repeated within a year. Defamations unrelated to the cases at hand
may nevertheless be the subject either of criminal or of civil suits by the parties if
their right to bring suit has been maintained by the courts, and third parties may in
any case bring civil suits.
Art. 58: In case of a conviction, the court may, in the cases provided for by Arts.
39, 40,41, 52 and 53, order the confiscation of the writings or publications,
placards, posters that have been seized and may order the seizure, removal or
destruction of all the copies placed on sale, distributed or displayed to the public.
The removal or destruction may be restricted to just parts of the seized copies.
Art. 71: The prosecution will be undertaken in accordance with applicable
procedure before the competent court, except for the following changes:
1. In case of defamation of private individuals provided for under Art. 47 of this
law and in the case of insult provided for under Art. 48, Para. 2, prosecution will
be undertaken solely on the basis of a complaint by the defamed or insulted person;
2. In case of insult or defamation against the courts, tribunals or other bodies
enumerated in Art. 45, the prosecution will be undertaken solely on the basis of a
decision to prosecute made by them in plenary deliberations, or if the body does
not have a plenary instance, upon the complaint of the person to whom the body is
3, In case of insult or defamation against members of our government, prosecution
will be undertaken either on the basis of a complaint by the interested parties or of
one made to the Prime Minister for transmission to the Minister of Justice;
4. In case of insult or defamation of officials or of persons holding public
authority, prosecution will be undertaken on the basis of their complaint or of the
government authority to whom they are responsible, addressed directly to the
Minister of Justice;
5. In case of defamation of an assessor and of a witness, prosecution will be
undertaken solely on the basis of a complaint by the assessor or by the witness;
6. In case of offense or contempt under Arts. 52 and 53 of this law, prosecution
will be undertaken either at the request of the offended or outraged party, or at that
person’s request addressed to the Prime Minister or the Foreign Minister;
7. In case of infringement of the private life of private persons under Additional
Art. 51 herein, prosecution will be undertaken solely on a complaint by the person
against whom the allegations or false statements of fact were made.
Art. 73: The accused must prove the truth of the defamatory facts in accordance
with Art. 49 above, within 15 days after notification of the citation, serve the
prosecutor or the plaintiff’s home, with 1, the facts of which he intends to prove
the truth, 2. supporting documents, and 3. the names, professions, and addresses of
the witnesses through whom he intends to prove his case.
SUDAN Population: 43.2 million Press Freedom Rating: Not Free
President Omar Hassan al-Bashir was reelected in April in a
landslide, an election judged to be not fee and fair by
observers. Journalists continued to face harassment and
intimidation, which grew worse as election tensions mounted.
The security services threatened to imprison reporters who did not complete an
alarmingly detailed questionnaire that polled them on their political views, names
of friends, bank account information and even floor plans of their homes.
During the last half of the year, Ajras Al-Hurriya had 13 lawsuits pending
against it on various charges, including “waging war against the State,” “erroneous
reporting” and “defamation.” Three cases were filed by the police against the paper
for posting to YouTube a video of a woman being beaten. In one of the most
serious cases, editor Fayez Al Sheikh Al Saleek and reporter Haj Warraq were
charged in May with “humiliating the State” and “erroneous reporting,” over an
article that supported a boycott of the elections and alleged vote-rigging. The two
faced fines and imprisonment.
In July, three journalists from Rai Al Shaab were sentenced to jail and the court
ordered the newspaper closed and its assets seized. A fourth journalist was
acquitted. They were arrested in May and charged with “crimes against the State.”
Deputy Editor-in-Chief Abuzar Al Amin was sentenced to five years in prison.
Editor Ashraf Abdelaziz and reporter Altahir Ibrahim were sentenced to two years.
Relevant Laws Sudan’s Parliament passed a new press law (“Law of Sudan on Press and Printed
Press Materials”) in June, replacing the controversial 2004 Press and Publications
Act. The new law was widely criticized for placing the press under a council
closely tied to the President, imposing annual licensing, and allowing courts to
levy unlimited fines (but no jail terms) for such broadly defined offenses as
“religious agitation” and disrespecting “public morals.”
Penal Code (1991) Art. 116 (Insult of Public Servant During Judicial Proceedings): Whoever
intentionally insults a public servant while performing judicial proceedings shall be
punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, with a fine, or
Art. 125 (Insulting Religious Beliefs): Whoever by any means publicly abuses or
insults any religion or its beliefs or sacred symbols or seeks to incite contempt or
scorn against its followers shall be punished with imprisonment for up to six
months, a fine or with flogging of up to 40 lashes.
Art. 157 Qadhf (Accusation of Unchastity): Whoever imputes to any honorable
living or dead person by express words, implicitly, by writing or via indicative
signs accusations of Zina or Sodomy or illegitimacy commits Qadhf.
Art. 158 provides that, if the penalty for Qadhf lapses for any reason specified in
the section, the offender may be punished for defamation.
Art. 159 (Defamation): 1. A person is said to commit the offense of defamation when the person publishes,
states or conveys to another, by any means, facts relating to a certain person or an
evaluation of his manners with the intent to harm his reputation.
2. A person shall not be deemed to have intended to harm someone’s reputation in
any of the following cases:
a) If his act is within the course of any judicial proceedings to the extent necessary,
or in a publication of these proceedings.
b) If he or any other person has a lawful complaint or interest to protect and this
cannot be achieved without ascribing the facts or the correction of the specific
c) If his act relates to a person nominated to a public office or is in public office
and was meant to remedy such person’s capacity or performance to the extent
d) If his act is within the context of advice to the person who deals with such
person or in the public interest.
e) If the ascription of facts is made in good faith to a person who is well known for
such acts …
3. Any person who commits the offense of defamation shall be punished with
imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, with a fine or both.
Art. 160 (Wrong and Abuse): Whoever directs wrong or abuse toward any
person, and this does not amount to Qadhf or defamation, with the intent of
insulting him, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding one
month, flogging of up to 25 lashes, or a fine.
TUNISIA Population: 10.4 million Press Freedom Rating: Not Free In late December 2010, the “Arab Spring” began in Tunisia,
in part because severe restrictions on free speech.
In April, independent journalist Taoufik Ben Brik was
freed from prison after serving a six-month sentence for several convictions,
including defamation. All charges were related to September 2009 articles in
French news outlets, in which Ben Brik criticized the government. An appeals
court upheld the sentence in February.
An appellate court also upheld the sentence of another independent journalist,
Fahem Boukadous, who was sentenced in 2008 to four years in prison for “harm to
public order.” The case stemmed from footage the journalist recorded of violent
protests over the unemployment rate in a poverty-stricken region of the country.
Boukadous went into hiding after the original sentence was imposed in 2008, then
for six years. However, Boukadous left prison when the President announced a
pardon for prisoners jailed over the protests. He was immediately rearrested and
forced to serve the remainder of his sentence despite the presidential pardon.
Kalima online reporter Mouldi Zouabi faced defamation charges over a 2009
story he reported about the Tunisian Boy Scouts. The reporter suggested the
Scouts, run by a ruling party member, needed new leadership.
Relevant Laws Press Code of 1975 (last amended in 2006) Art. 48: Insult of the President (by means of the press or any other intentional
form of propagation) is punishable by one to five years’ imprisonment and a fine
of 1,000 to 2,000 Dinars (approx. US $780-1,560). Insult of an authorized religion
Relevant Laws Press Code of 1975 Art. 48: Insult of the President (by means of the press or any other intentional
form of propagation) is punishable by one to five years imprisonment and a fine of
1,000 to 2,000 dinars (approx. US$780-1,560). Insult of an authorized religion
is punishable by three months to two years imprisonment and a fine of 100 to
2,000 dinars (approx. US$80-1,560).
Art. 49: The publication, dissemination or the reproduction, by whatever means, of
false news, fabrications, falsifications, if made in bad faith, causing disorder to the
public order or being susceptible to doing so, is punishable by imprisonment of
two months to two years and a fine of 100 to 2,000 dinars (approx. US$80-1,560),
or one of these penalties.
Art. 50: Defamation consists of any public allegation or imputation of a fact that
constitutes an attack on the honor or esteem of the individual or constituent body
against whom the fact is imputed. Publication directly or by means of reproduction
of such an allegation or imputation is punishable, even if it is done in a form that
leaves it open to doubt or question or if it is aimed at an individual or body not
expressly named but whose identification is possible by the terms of the speech,
cries, threats, written or printed materials, placards, drawings or posters that are
called into question.
Art. 51: Defamation committed via the press or any other intentional mode of
propagation against the courts and tribunals, the armed forces, constituent bodies
or the government is punishable by imprisonment of one to three years and a fine
of 120 to 1,200 dinars (approx. US$94-940).
Art. 53: Defamation of individuals by one of the means specified in Art. 42 (via
the press or other means of intentional propagation) shall be punishable by 16
days’ to six months’ imprisonment and a fine of 120 to 1,200 dinars (approx.
US$94-940), or one of these penalties.
Defamation committed by the same means against a group of persons not specified
in the present article but who belong by origin to a particular race or religion shall
be punishable by one month’s to one year’s imprisonment and a fine of 120 to
1,200 dinars (approx. US$94-940), if its object is to stir up hatred among citizens
Art. 54: All outrageous expression, terms of contempt or invectives, that do not
involve the imputation of a fact, constitute an insult. Insult by one of the means
specified in Art. 42 (via the press or other means of intentional propagation)
towards constitutional bodies or persons specified in Arts. 51 et seq., (see above),
if not preceded by provocation, is punishable by imprisonment of 16 days to three
months and a fine or 120 to 1,200 dinars (approx. US$94-940).
The pronounced penalty cannot be lowered under the minimum specified in the
preceding paragraph. The maximum imprisonment penalty will be one year and the
maximum fine 1,200 Dinars, where the insult is committed by the same means,
towards a group of persons who belong by origin to a particular race or religion
and the objective is to incite hatred amongst citizens and inhabitants.
Art. 58: Any reprinting of an imputation that has been judged to be defamatory
will be considered to have been done in bad faith absent proof of the contrary.
Art. 59: Insult committed publicly towards foreign heads of state and members of
government are punishable by imprisonment of three months to one year and a fine
of 120 to 1,200 dinars (approx. US$94-940), or one of these penalties.
Art. 60: Insult committed publicly towards heads of missions and other diplomatic
agents accredited by the Tunisian government is punishable by imprisonment of 16
days to one year and a fine of 120 to 1,200 dinars (approx. US$94-940), or one of
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES Population: 4.7 million (UN, 2010) Press Freedom Rating: Not Free
A draft law in the works in 2009 was set aside after critics
balked at certain provisions it contained, not the least of
which was massive fines for insulting the royal family.
Insult was still a criminal offense, but encouragement came
from the prime minister, who issued an order barring imprisonment of journalists.
A promise was made to change the law to reflect the prime minister’s order.
In August, freelance journalist Mark Townsend was charged with “defamation”
in connection with comments in 2009 on a consumer web site. The posts were
critical of Khaleej Times management. Townsend, a former editor at the Khaleej Times, denied posting the comments.
In another case involving web site comments, an appeals court upheld the
defamation conviction of Hetta online editor Ahmed bin Gharib, who was ordered
to pay a fine of $8,100 and close the site for a month. The Abu Dhabi Media
Company sued bin Gharib for comments posted by readers alleging corruption.
Relevant Laws Penal Code of 1987 It criminalizes printing material that causes “moral harm” (Art. 372) and
defamation (Art. 373). The International Research & Exchanges Board, notes that
possible penalties include two-year jail terms and fines of 20,000 dirhams (approx.
Federal Law No. 15 of 1980 Concerning Publications and Releases Art. 70: Direct and forward criticism of the person of the State President or the
governors of the emirates is forbidden.
Art. 71: The release of what may include provocation or offense to Islam or to the
regime in the country, or may damage higher interests of the state or the basic rules
of society, shall be prohibited.
Art. 76: It is forbidden to publish what may bring shame to an Arabic or Islamic
state or any other friendly state. It is also forbidden to publish what may trouble
relations between the State and other Arabic, Islamic or friendly states.
Art. 77: It is forbidden to publish what may include a false accusation of the Arabs
or a perversion of their civilization or tradition.
Art. 79: It is forbidden to publish news, photos or comments concerning the
secrets of the private life or family secrets of individuals, even if they are true, if
such diffusion affected the concerned person. It is also forbidden to publish what
may include the disclosure of a secret that affects a person’s reputation, wealth or
trade name, or what may intend to threaten him or force him to pay money, do a
favor for a third party or deprive him of his freedom to work.
Art. 84: It is forbidden to contest the work of a public functionary or a person of a
public parliamentary capacity or charged with a public function with defamation.
The writer is exempt from liability if it is proved that he in good faith believed that
the facts attributed to such an individual were true and that this belief was
Art. 86: Anyone who violates . . . Arts. 71 to 85 of the present law shall be
punished by imprisonment ranging from one month to six months, a fine ranging
from 1,000 to 5,000 dirhams (approx. US$270-1,360), or only one of these.
In addition to the punishment stipulated in the previous paragraph, the court shall,
depending on the situation, order the suspension of the journal or closure of the
show house for up to one month.
Art. 89: Anyone who violates Art. 70 of the present law shall be punished by
imprisonment for a period of six months to two years, a fine ranging from 5,000 to
10,000 dirhams (approx. US$1,360-2,700), or only one of these.
The journal’s editor-in-chief shall be punished by the penalty … in the previous
paragraph. The court shall, in addition to the punishment … in both paragraphs
previously mentioned, order the journal’s suspension for up to six months.
YEMEN Population: 24.3 million Press Freedom Rating: Not Free
Several draft media laws that threatened to further
restrict press freedom were under consideration at the
end of 2010. One of the most extreme would increase
prison terms for “insult” convictions.
The Specialized Press and Publications Court, a media tribunal set up in mid-2009,
continued to be a means for prosecuting journalists.
President Ali Abdallah Saleh issued ambiguous pardons in dozens of cases
pending against journalists. The official ambiguity was seen as a tool to insure
reporters practiced self-censorship to keep their cases inactive.
Hussein al-Laswas was one of the journalists pardoned. He had been sentenced to a
year in prison for criminal defamation of a public official. Al-Laswas, editor of Al- Tajdid, was convicted in May over articles on corruption at the power company.
Al Thaqafieh journalist Moaz Al-Ashihabi was convicted early in the year by
the Special Court and sentenced to a year in prison for reporting that “infringed on
the Islamic faith.”
Anisa Othman, a reporter for Al-Wasat, was sentenced to three months in prison
and banned from journalism for a year after she was convicted of “offending the
President.” Othman was the first female journalist sentenced to jail for her articles.
In April, Aleshteraki editor Muhammad al-Maqaleh was charged with “insulting
the President” and ordered to appear before the Special Court. The charge stems
from a 2005 article criticizing the President for running for reelection, after
promising not to do so. Maqaleh faced a two-year jail term. In early February,
Maqaleh reappeared after being kidnapped by government forces five months
earlier. He was eventually charged with “supporting rebels” over an article
criticizing air raids that killed 87 persons. Charges were dropped in March.
The Special Court sentenced Al-Masdar reporter Munir Al-Mawari to two years
in prison and a lifetime ban from journalism for libel. Editor-in-Chief Samir Jubran
was given a one-year suspended sentence. The case stemmed from an article Al-
Mawari wrote in May 2009 denouncing the war strategy against Shiite rebels.
Editor Samir Jubran faced various additional charges, along with four more
members of his staff, including “disturbing public order,” “inciting regionalism,”
and “threatening national unity.”
Relevant Laws 1990 Press and Publications Law (No. 25) Art. 103: Persons employed in radio, television and written journalism and
especially those employed in responsible positions in radio and television
journalism, owners and editors-in-chief of newspapers, owners of printing presses
and publishing houses and journalists, shall abstain from printing, publishing,
circulating or broadcasting:
a) Anything which prejudices the Islamic faith and its lofty principles or belittles
religions or humanitarian creeds. …
d) Anything which leads to the spread of ideas contrary to the principles of the
Yemeni Revolution, prejudicial to national unity or distorting the image of the
Yemeni, Arab or Islamic heritage
e) Anything which undermines public morals, prejudices the dignity of individuals,
or the freedom of the individual by way of smears and defamation. …
j) Advertisements containing texts or pictures that are inconsistent with Islamic
values and public ethics, defame or libel individuals, attack the rights of others or
mislead the public …
Art. 104: Without prejudice to any more severe penalty under another law, any
person who contravenes the provisions of this law shall be subject to a fine not
exceeding 10,000 riyals (approx. US$ 50) or a period of imprisonment not
exceeding one year.
Art. 106: The court may order the imposition of any of the following
a) Prohibition of continued practice of the profession of journalism, circulation and
printing of newspapers and printed materials or of the import, export, renting or
sale of cinema films at the exhibiting of artistic compositions or any other of the
professions covered by the provisions of this law for a period not exceeding one
Art. 107: A newspaper or printed material may, by a decision of the Minister or
his deputy, be seized by administrative action if it has been printed, issued or
circulated in violation to the provisions of this law. The matter shall be brought
before the courts to rule on whether the material seized should be confiscated.
The person concerned has the right to appeal to the courts against the decision of
seizure and to claim compensation.
The Penal Code (Republican Decree, Law No. 12 for 1994, Concerning Crimes
and Penalties) imposes prison sentences for insulting public employees (Art. 172,
up to one year), and the President (Art. 197, up to two years).