Lawmakers overwhelmingly rescind libel law on Oct. 2

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Oct. 2, 2012, 10:25 a.m. |

Ukrainian journalists work on Oct. 2 behind a banner reading "Stop the libel law!" in the parliament in Kyiv during a debate on a draft bill, which would have made defamation a crime punishable by jail. The Ukrainian parliament on Oct. 2 scrapped the bill criminalizing libel, a move the opposition and media had feared was a step toward censorship, before the Oct. 28 parliamentary elections. AFP PHOTO / SERGEI SUPINSKY

A total of 349 lawmakers out of 450 in the Verkhovna Rada voted this morning to rescind a draconian libel law that would have imprisoned journalists for defamation. The reversal comes two weeks after a majority in the same body -- 244 lawmakers -- voted for the legislation in the first reading.

Lawmakers backed down in the face of overwhelming international and domestic criticism, including from President Viktor Yanukovych, after his pro-presidential Party of Regions supported the law along with the Communist Party and members of Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn's bloc.

"I consider this a victory of civil society and journalists in particular," said Arseniy Yatseniuk, the opposition leader. He also said that he rescheduled a meeting with Yulia Tymoshenko to make it to the vote. The jailed former prime minister is now in a Kharkiv hospital, where she is being treated for spinal hernia.

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