Nine years ago, in October 2007, Pen International presented a report called “Insult and Defamation” that deals with how people in power use laws about insult and defamation to restrict the freedom of speech in a country. In the report Rumania was mentioned as an example to follow since the country had then recently deleted any such treacherous phrasings in their laws. However, only six years later, something which both PEN and the publication Index on Censorship noted and gave warning about, Rumania suddenly over a night reinstated the laws about insult and defamation and this time in an even stricter version.
Since then there is a similar trend in ever more countries and regions. Strangely enough this development goes hand in hand with the growth of strong nationalist parties. One clear and frightening example is the reintroduction in 2005 of Article 301 in Turkey’s system of law, which makes it a criminal offence to “insult the Turkish nation.” This means that all critique of the state of Turkey and its leaders’ actions is possible to incriminate—something that we have seen often lately. Ten to twelve years ago it was easy to think of these laws as a remnant of a pre-democratic era due to their relationship to the archaic case of lese-majesty, and that they were doomed to wither away. Instead these kinds of laws have now returned and have become a growing threat to the freedom of speech in many parts of the world.