EU ministers clash over media defamation rules

European Union justice and interior ministers clashed in Brussels today over three-year old plans to streamline legal rules across the 25-nation bloc on liability and defamation involving media, which could cause problems for freedom of expression rights.

Austrian Justice Minister Karin Gastinger said the EU ministers were deadlocked over a complex legal proposal to set up rules of mutual recognition of national liability laws and ones dealing with defamation of private citizens, public figures or religious icons in the press.

The plan would allow victims to file legal suits, including those in non-EU nations, against persons, companies or media outlets in any EU country over damages incurred in an accident, for defective goods, or for defamation of character by media.

Officials acknowledged the rule could lead to civil cases being filed in European courts over the recent contentious publication of cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed, but added that chances of a successful suit could be limited.

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