The expression of an opinion or of a true statement may never constitute a valid claim of defamation.
- States should ensure that their laws relating to defamation conform to the following standards: No one shall be found liable for true statements, opinions or statements regarding public figures which it was reasonable to make in the circumstances.
- As part of the reviews of laws and practices, member States which have defamation laws should ensure that those laws include freedom of expression safeguards that conform to European and international human rights standards, including truth/public-interest/fair comment defences and safeguards against misuse and abuse, in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights and the principle of proportionality, as developed in the relevant judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. Furthermore, given the chilling effect that legislation criminalising particular types of expression has on freedom of expression and public debate, States should exercise restraint in applying such legislation, where it exists.
- The media should be free to report on election-related matters. They should also be exempted from liability for disseminating unlawful statements made directly by parties or candidates – whether in the context of live broadcasting or advertising – unless the statements have been ruled unlawful by a court or the statements constitute direct incitement to violence and the media outlet had an opportunity to prevent their dissemination.
- In accordance with international and regional law, “hate speech” laws should, at a minimum, conform to the following: no one should be penalized for statements which are true.
- ...no one should be liable under defamation law for the expression of an opinion; in relation to a statement on a matter of public concern, it should be a defence to show that publication was reasonable in the given circumstances; and civil sanctions for defamation should not be so large as to exert a chilling effect on freedom of expression and should be designed to restore the reputation harmed, not to compensate the plaintiff or to punish the defendant; in particular, pecuniary awards should be strictly proportionate to the actual harm caused and the law should prioritize the use of a range of nonpecuniary remedies.
- Criminal defamation laws are unduly restrictive and should be abolished. Civil law rules on liability for false and defamatory statements are legitimate only if defendants are given a full opportunity and fail to prove the truth of those statements and also benefit from other defences, such as fair comment.
- To require truth in the context of publications relating to matters of public interest is excessive; (d) it should be sufficient if reasonable efforts have been made to ascertain the truth. With regards to opinions, it should be clear that only patently unreasonable views may qualify as defamatory.