Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 January 2018, 09:27 GMT

ARTICLE 19 criticises Brazil's criminalisation of expression at Inter-American Commission

Publisher Article 19
Publication Date 30 October 2013
Cite as Article 19, ARTICLE 19 criticises Brazil's criminalisation of expression at Inter-American Commission , 30 October 2013, available at: [accessed 16 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

ARTICLE 19 has today raised Brazil's continued breach of regional freedom of expression standards at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

ARTICLE 19 has urged the Commission to condemn under Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights, Brazil's so-called "honour crimes" of slander and libel, and contempt, all provided for in the country's penal code.

The "honour crimes" of slander and libel, and contempt are used in Brazil as a political instrument of intimidation, and go against the standards set by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which has repeatedly stated that the best solution for defamation and contempt is civil, not criminal remedies.

ARTICLE 19 has argued at the Commission that freedom of expression and the right to reputation are human rights and should be balanced according to international and regional human rights standards using only, where necessary, civil remedies. ARTICLE 19 has also criticised the law as follows:

The penalties provided for in cases of defamation and contempt in Brazil - three months to two years' imprisonment plus a fine - are disproportionate and incompatible with the recommendations of international human rights bodies, including the Commission

Liability for defamation and contempt is criminal regardless of proven intent or the actual occurance of damage. The law also does not provide for the reversal of the burden of proof and does not bring the need for the expression considered offensive, to be versed only on untrue facts. As such, the expression of opinions or true facts is punishable as a crime, in contradiction to regional and international standards.

The law fails to provide special protection to expression on topics of relevant public interest or that will affect public will, which are vital to ensure political debate and the proper functioning of democracy.

ARTICLE 19 raised emblematic Brazilian cases that have demonstrated how the criminalisation of "honour" and contempt have impacted of freedom of expression through the illegitimate and systematic restriction of the free flow of information Brazil.

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