If the court finds that you have overstepped the permissible borders of criticism and defamed another person, the sanctions applied to you must be proportional. Overly severe sanctions can still violate freedom of expression even if your statements have amounted to defamation.

example The amount of compensation for the defamatory expressions should not be so high as to lead the media to insolvency or to deter the particular journalist from reporting on matters of public interest again.

Civil remedies: compensation, apology, retraction

Civil remedies are used most commonly in defamation cases. Civil remedies may include monetary compensation, an obligation to retract the defamatory statements or an apology. In choosing the type of remedy or amount of compensation, the courts must balance the gravity of the damage to a person’s reputation and the importance of freedom of expression of the other person.

example If the court of final instance awards compensation which is approximately four times larger than previously awarded by courts in defamation cases, this will not be proportional, unless there are exceptional circumstances justifying such an amount of damages.

Criminal sanctions

Criminal sanctions are an exception in defamation cases and must be applied very cautiously. Criminal sanctions are the most severe type of penalty, and therefore, they are usually applied for the most serious violations, such as statements inciting hatred or violence.

They should also be applied only as an exception, because criminal sanctions could also deter the media from fulfilling their role in future.

The Latvian Criminal Law provides for criminal sanctions for libel only. Libel is defamatory expressions which are deliberate, contain false facts and are expressed publicly or published through the press or other media. However, criminal sanctions are an exception even in these cases. Authorities must demonstrate the need for criminal sanctions and why other less restrictive sanctions such as a claim for monetary compensation through civil proceedings is not sufficient.

Human Rights Guide

A European platform for human rights education