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Rep. Christopher H. Smith, Chairman
Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Co-Chairman
For Immediate Release
July 30, 2003


Urges Other Nations to Repeal Criminal Defamation and Insult Laws

(Washington) – United States Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) today welcomed the proposed increased protections for free speech in the Romanian Government’s draft penal code. Smith called on Romania’s parliament to pass the bill into law and urged other countries to take similar steps to protect freedom of speech.

“I have been heartened by the many positive changes that have taken place in Romania since the fall of Ceausescu and disappointed by the many squandered opportunities to implement more meaningful reforms,” said Smith. “In particular, I have long urged all post-communist governments to repeal insult and criminal defamation laws.”

On May 21, 2003, the Romanian Government proposed a new penal code that would do just that – repeal insult and criminal defamation laws.

“Romanian parliamentarians now stand at an important crossroads, and I hope they will expeditiously pass these proposed changes into law,” Smith said. “Doing so will likely lead to significant improvements for Romanians and will serve as a positive example that I hope other countries, such as Armenia, will follow.”

The proposed penal code would make the following changes:

  • Article 205 of the existing criminal code, which punishes insult by up to two years in prison, would be repealed.

  • Article 206, which makes defamation punishable by up to three years in prison, would become Article 217; however it would only be punishable by a fine.

  • Article 236, which makes defamation of national symbols, the country or the nation punishable by up to three years in prison, would be repealed.

  • Article 238, which makes insult or defamation of public officials punishable by up to seven years in prison, would be repealed.

  • Article 239, which makes "outrage" by insult or defamation of public authority punishable by up to seven years in prison, would be renumbered Article 314 and the scope of the offense narrowed to threats or violence.

Reports on criminal defamation and insult laws in the Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia are available through the Helsinki Commission’s web site,

The United States Helsinki Commission, an independent federal agency, by law monitors and encourages progress in implementing provisions of the Helsinki Accords. The Commission, created in 1976, is composed of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.

Media Contact: Ben Anderson
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