The Ukrainian parliament on Tuesday scrapped a draft bill which would have made defamation a crime punishable by jail, a move the opposition and media had feared was a step towards censorship before a parliamentary election later this month.
Deputies from President Viktor Yanukovich’s Party of the
Regions and their allies, who hold the majority in parliament,
rushed through the draft law’s first reading on Sept. 18. It
would have allowed prison terms of up to five years for
However, last week Yanukovich criticised the timing of the
proposal on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly,
prompting the Regions deputy who introduced the law to remove it
from parliamentary discussion.
Yanukovich spoke against it after protests by Ukrainian
journalists and also after the opposition turned it into an
The parliament voted on Tuesday to remove the bill from its
agenda, although the opposition voiced concerns that it may
“They will do everything to come back to this after the
election of a new parliament,” said Arseny Yatseniuk, the leader
of the United Opposition bloc which includes the Batkivshchyna
(Fatherland) party of jailed former prime minister Yulia
The scrapped libel law would have applied to anyone,
including journalists, who spread “deliberately untrustworthy
information” which denigrated a person, hurt their honour and
dignity or undermined their business reputation.
The proposal to return the legislation to the books 11 years
after it was removed led to an outcry from the opposition and
independent media which says it is under increased pressure from
the authorities before the Oct. 28 election.
Political analysts say the Regions and their allies are
likely to retain a majority in the 450-seat chamber.
Officials from the European Union and the United States have
criticised what they see as biased media coverage of the
political scene and the imprisonment of Tymoshenko, Yanukovich’s
main political opponent, on abuse-of-office charges.