Defamation remains a criminal offence in Haiti (punishable with imprisonment).
The following are offences under the Haitian Criminal Code:
Defamation (Art. 313), defined as imputing to an individual, in public places or public meetings, facts that damage his honour or reputation.
If the act of defamation consists in alleging the commission of a crime punishable with the death penalty or perpetual forced labour, the punishment is imprisonment for up to three years and a fine of 300 to 1,500 gourdes.
For all other acts of defamation, the punishment is imprisonment for six months to one year and a fine of 100 to 500 gourdes.
Public insult (Art. 320), defined as publicly uttering outrageous or insulting expressions that do not consist in the imputation of a specific fact but rather in the imputation of a “specific vice”. The punishment is imprisonment from one month to one year and a fine of 100 to 500 gourdes.
Non-public insult (Art. 321) is punished with a “peine de police”, i.e., short-term detention.
Criminal Defamation of Public Officials
Provisions on the books.
Insult (outrage) against the “honour or delicacy” against high-ranking public officials or legislators is a criminal offence under Art. 187 of the Haitian Criminal Code. The punishment is imprisonment for up to three years.
Verbal or oral insult (outrage) against the “honour or delicacy” of judicial authorities is a criminal offence under Art. 183 The punishment is imprisonment for three months to one year.
Insult via words, gestures or threats against any ministerial or police officer is a criminal offence under Art. 185, punished with a fine of 16 to 40 gourdes.
Criminal Defamation of the Head of State
Criminal Defamation of the State and its Symbols
Criminal Defamation of Foreign States and Symbols
Criminal Defamation of the Deceased
However, Art. 221 of the Haitian Criminal Code punishes insult against the objects of religious worship when committed in a place of worship or during a religious service. The punishment is imprisonment from 15 days to six months.
Other Relevant Criminal Provisions
Offending public morality
Offending public morality via producing or distributing songs, pamphlets, books, drawings or images contrary to good morals is a criminal offence under Art. 232 of the Haitian Criminal Code. The punishment is imprisonment for up to one year. The impugned material may be confiscated.
Statistics on Application
Media Cases and Case Law
In 2008, journalist and press freedom advocate Guyler Delva was sentenced to one month in prison for defamation. The charges were filed by former Haitian senator Rudolphe Boulos, who alleged that Delva had defamed him by stating that Boulos had failed to testify about the unsolved murder in 2000 of Haitian journalist Jean-Léopold Dominique.
In 2011, three journalists – Eddy Jackson Alexis, Josias Pierre and Jacque Innocent – were fired from Haitian state television and charged with criminal defamation after allegedly insulting president-elect Michel Martelly as well as the director of Télévision National d’Haiti.
Recent Legal Changes
In March 2015 a draft bill for a new Haitian Criminal Code was released. Criminal defamation and the possibility of imprisonment remain.
The information contained in this database is for informational and advocacy purposes only. If you are a journalist facing a defamation claim, you should seek legal advice from a qualified attorney. However, if you are unable to find such an attorney, IPI may be able to assist you in doing so. Please contact us at ipi[at]freemedia.at.
Information on Haiti was last updated in September 2015.