While the U.S. media debates the merits of publishing information pertaining to national security, the anthrax scare, and public morale, some countries have settled the issue through legislative action. Here are some examples, compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists:
• In Zimbabwe, journalists can be charged with “publishing materials likely to cause alarm and despondency” under the Law and Order Maintenance Act.
• The Mozambican Press Law stipulates that in cases of defamation of the president, “truth is not a defense.”
• Offenses punishable by death in the Democratic Republic of the Congo include “insulting the army” and “demoralizing the nation.” Article 78 of the 1996 Press Law explicitly requires the media to back the government’s war efforts.
• A draft of a new Costa Rican Penal Code introduces the novel concept of “subliminal defamation,” a category that would grant dangerous interpretive latitude to local judges.
• Journalists in Uzbekistan are legally forbidden to report on the discovery of new diseases.