Mexican President Felipe Calderon has signed into law a federal bill that decriminalizes libel.
The new legislation changes the centre of gravity of Mexican libel law from criminal to civil, so that defamation actions will in future be civil disputes between a plaintiff and a defendant, rather than criminal matters.
In countries such as Mexico in the Civilian tradition, defamation is often a criminal rather than a civil matter; whereas, in countries such as Ireland in the Common Law tradition, it is usually a civil matter. Nevertheless, even in common law countries, defamation can occasionally have criminal consequences; and there is still a crime of libel at Irish law (see, for example, the Law Reform Commission‘s Consultation Paper (html | pdf) and Report (html | pdf) on the Crime of Libel). However, Part 5 of the Defamation Bill, 2006 (Department of Justice | Oireachtas (pdf)) proposes to abolish the crime of libel (section 34) and replace it with a considerably more circumscribed crime of publication of gravely harmful statements (section 35). On this issue, then, Mexico and Ireland might end up meeting in the middle!