If a citizen of a nation is deliberately spreading lies against a given government of a country (let's say U.S. federal or state government) to undermine it's capacity to act properly then can the federal or state government of a given country sue it's own citizen for libel ?

Has it happened before ?

  • Are you asking specifically about the United States, or nations around the world? – Ron Beyer Oct 13 '18 at 20:55
  • @RonBeyer Yeah 😅😅. If such a thing hasn't happened in US , then example of other countries would also do. – Aashish Loknath Panigrahi Oct 13 '18 at 20:59
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    Typically a country that doesn't allow speaking out against the government makes it a crime, not a civil tort, so they don't sue for it, they prosecute as a criminal offense. There are a lot of examples of that around the world. – Ron Beyer Oct 13 '18 at 21:06
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    Abraham Lincoln apparently sought to close a newspaper he claimed wasn't printing the truth. See footnote #34 @ ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/cgi/… – David Blomstrom Oct 15 '18 at 0:39

"Seditious libel" has happened before, but not in the US. This comes up in NY Times v. Sullivan, which notes that

For good reason, "no court of last resort in this country has ever held, or even suggested, that prosecutions for libel on government have any place in the American system of jurisprudence." City of Chicago v. Tribune Co., 307 Ill. 595, 601, 139 N.E.

This Volokh article gives various citations showing that a government entity cannot sue for libel.

  • Is sedition like libel ? – Aashish Loknath Panigrahi Oct 13 '18 at 21:04
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    No, sedition inciting against the goverment. The Crown used the law against seditious libel to suppress dissent, which is why we have the First Amendment. – user6726 Oct 13 '18 at 22:19
  • This is correct, although a criminal sanction for defaming a private party brought by the government is constitutional although it is not very rare in the United States. – ohwilleke Oct 15 '18 at 12:21

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