You can distrust officials, but dont punish journalists
On 5 April, the Kreminsky District Court in the Luhansk region rejected a defamation suit brought by the Head of the Kreminsky District Council and head of the district branch of the Party of the Regions Valentin Ryabinin against the newspaper “Miski novyny” [“City news”].
More than two years ago the city newspaper published an appeal from the city “orange” committee “Kuchma-people must not govern us” which expressed no confidence in ten officials at district level, including the head of the District Administration Valentin Ryabinin. The latter considered the expression of no confidence to be unwarranted and approached the court.
Later the same newspaper punished a text by a pensioner from Orydoroha: “Poverty is a sign of slavery” which also expressed no confidence in the then former official who was accused of destroying the economy of the district. After that Mr Ryabinin first headed the district branch of the Party of the Regions, and then with this party won the district council elections.
The court combined both law suits from the Head of the District Council. In rejecting the claims, it based its judgment on the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, stating that an expression of no confidence was a value judgment which is not subject to being refuted. The judge added that journalists have the right to a certain level of provocative journalism.
The newspaper “Miski novyny” is not coming out at present since the Council, through the efforts of the Party of the Regions Deputies, refused to provide it with financing (which was not included in the budget). The journalists have been dismissed and the Editor is on unpaid leave. However the Editor has expressed hope that the management of the regional branch of the Party of the Regions may help, since they have promised to exert influence on their district co-party members.