Newsweek has today published an article by Jo Glanville, director of English PEN, on the prosecution of the German comedian Jan Böhmermann, and the wider problem of criminal defamation laws across Europe:
Across the EU, criminal defamation is in fact the norm—23 of the 28 member states have some form of criminal defamation on their books. An alarming number of states impose excessive criminal penalties for insulting royalty—it can get you six years in jail in Sweden—and there are similarly worrying consequences for insulting a head of state.
Europeans should be highly embarrassed about this. Defamation no longer carries criminal penalties in much of the world, including the U.S., U.K. and many African states. The EU champions human rights and seeks to set standards, lecturing other countries that fall short, including Turkey. While EU members may not be able to compete with Erdogan’s abuse of the law, the legislation seriously undermines the EU’s moral authority and has a chilling effect across the region.