Defamation decriminalized in Seychelles

In  Seychelles, it is very rare for a person to be charged with criminal libel and in the  last  decade only  one  person in  Seychelles  was charged  with  the offence  of  criminal libel.

Defamation is no longer a crime under the Seychelles Penal Code . Vice President Ahmed Afif presented the proposal to remove sections 184 and 191 from chapter 18 in the Penal Code to the Seychelles National Assembly. President Wavel Ramkalawan has assented to the Penal Code Amendment Act (2021), which was approved by the National Assembly on October 6, 2021.

Section 184 under chapter 18 defines defamation as "any person who by print, writing, painting, effigy, or by any means otherwise than solely by gestures, spoken words or other sounds, unlawfully publishes any defamatory matter concerning another person, with intent to defame that other person, is guilty of a misdemeanour termed libel."

The Office of the Attorney General advised the National Assembly during debates, criminal defamation is an outdated concept, and is inconsistent with the norms and practices of international agreements which Seychelles has signed, including Article 19 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which condone the limitations of criminal defamation on freedom of expression.

Therefore the concept of criminal libel was a need to be revised. In  cases such  as Ramkalawan v  Parti  Lepep [2017]  and  Ernesta v  Bastienne  [2020] demonstrate  that  politicians, like any other person in Seychelles, can successfully rely on civil defamation where their reputations are being maliciously lowered.

Although it is rare for anyone to be charged for criminal defamation, the law may be used to silence the media, in turn negatively affecting freedom of expression and as such the defamation laws are not to protect anyone's reputation but it rather silences the voice against the government and government officials.

Seychelles, an archipelago in the Western Indian Ocean, has been working to modernise its laws in the last couple of years.

The country with 99,000 inhabitants improved its ranking in the World Press Freedom Index, climbing 11 spots to 52nd out of 180countries for 2020. The index is published by Reporters Without Borders (RWB),a Paris-based non-governmental organisation.

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