Once again the whole idea of libel as a criminal matter instead of a civil one has landed a journalist and his source in jail.
The Committee to Protect Journalists reported earlier this month (and Roy Greenslade blogged) that Somali freelance journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim was sentenced to a year in jail because he reported about about a woman who claimed she was raped by soldiers. The charge: Insulting the government.
- The Guardian: Somali journalist jailed for insulting the government
- CPJ: Somali court hands journalist one-year jail term
The issue of criminalized libel is a serious problem for journalists trying to do their jobs. This issue is a growing concern among journalists.
The International Press Institute has a whole campaign to get Caribbean countries to change their laws. (IPI Campaign to Repeal Criminal Defamation in the Caribbean)
The bottom line is that even if the information is correct, individuals, organizations or governments can ask for criminal penalties against journalists if even one person thinks less of the subject of the story. The American idea of “truth as an absolute defense against libel” is not part of the equation.