A draft European Union (EU) law could subject web publishers to defamation laws in any EU country where their work is downloaded, says campaign group Article 19.

The law could present a real threaten to investigative journalists, says the group, as it could subject them to repressive criminal defamation laws used to silence legitimate expression in EU countries and candidate countries.

Julia Apostle, legal officer for Article 19, says that it is very likely that the new laws will be adopted at the end of February.

"This is the end of the road," she told dotJournalism.

"The proposal is part of a larger area of conflicting law in the EU - it is trying to harmonise legislation."

Article 19 claims that the regulation does not sufficiently recognise the unique issues of web publishing; that internet publishers should not be held accountable by defamation-related laws in countries outside where they work and publish. Unlike print and broadcast media, argues the group, web publishers have little control over the distribution of their work once it is published online.

The group wrote to the European parliament on 27 January requesting that the commission consider an alternative solution - that publications be liable to laws of the country in which they upload work to the site or the country in which they are based.

"Somewhere like Romania has insult laws, not just libel laws, where publishers could face steep fines," said Ms Apostle.

Until early January, the European commission ran a public consultation on the proposed legislation to which Article 19 submitted a detailed statement.

"The more attention that is paid to this issue the better. We submitted our recommendations to the UK representative but have heard nothing."

Related article:

See also:

Free daily newsletter

If you like our news and feature articles, you can sign up to receive our free daily (Mon-Fri) email newsletter (mobile friendly).