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International Federation of Journalists urges Ukraine not to criminalize slander

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March 21, 2013, 6:48 p.m. | Ukraine — by Interfax-Ukraine

Reporters hold blank sheets of paper in protest to libel law criminalizing slander.
© Kostyantyn Chernichkin

International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) have cautioned Ukraine against a new attempt to introduce criminal liability for slander. 

"Journalist organizations such as the EFJ, and international organizations as the Council of Europe and OSCE, try to stop criminal prosecutions for slander all over Europe. Our position is clear: criminal laws on slander are not just disproportional, but they also have a restrictive effect for the readiness and ability of the journalists to do their job effectively," EFJ President Arne Konig said as committee of the Independent Media Trade Union of Ukraine reported on Wednesday, March 20.

According to the committee's report, on March 18 first Deputy Prosecutor General Renat Kuzmin once again proposed to make slander a crime in Ukraine. He is to make amendments to the corresponding article of the law during the present session of parliament.

The partner organizations of the IFJ and EFJ - the Independent Media Trade Union of Ukraine and National Journalists' Union of Ukraine - said that similar proposal was had been criticized in autumn 2012 and evoked mass protests among journalists. They said that a fresh attempt would provoke more negative responses from journalists.

"We support rallies of Ukrainian journalists in this struggle. Every attempt to force there to be criminal liability for slander is a direct threat to professional journalists, who are trying to uncover bribery, corruption and nepotism in Ukraine," IFJ President Jim Boumelha said.

According to Independent Media Trade Union, the slander issue could be resolved according to the present law and there is no need to make amendments to legislation.

As reported, on September 18, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine passed at first reading a bill by Vitaliy Zhuravsky introducing amendments to the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine concerning the tightening of responsibility for infringements of honor, dignity and business reputation. The document proposes adding Article 145-1 on slander to the Criminal Code.

The protests against the adoption of this bill started on September 25 and were supported by a lot of popular media.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych also criticized the bill on criminalizing slander.

On October 2, Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine decided to cancel the bill, which had been approved at first reading. 

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