Norms protecting journalists from excessive lawsuit claims removed
On 8 July the Verkhovna Rada passed a law on court fees which, as well as making it even harder for individuals to receive legal redress through the courts, also removed a vital safeguard for journalists. The Law (draft law no. 7530) does not contain the provisions which protect journalists from excessively high defamation suits. The law was supported by 238 National Deputies.
According to Taras Shevchenko, Director of the Media Law Institute, from 2003 in order to lodge a claim for a million UAH, the claimant needed to pay 100 thousand UAH in State duty. This was a restraining factor against huge compensation claims which became rare. Now, in order to lodge a claim for a million, you need only pay 100 UAH, as a claim of a non-property nature.
The law passed introduces a different formula for calculating fees payable for lodging claims from that in the government decree “On State Duty”. The latter had a scale for State duty, with this as follows:
from defamation suits where the claim was up to 100 times the minimum income before tax, the fee was 1% of the claim, but not less than 1 minimum income;
from defamation suits between 100 and 10 thousand times the minimum income before tax, the fee came to 5% of the claim;
where it was over 10 thousand, the fee was 10% of the claim.
The new law contains no such scale and envisages, among other things, that the fee for lodging a defamation claim seeking moral compensation is determined taking into account the price of the claim.
The law also increases the fee for a defamation claim (where moral compensation is not sought) from 1 minimum income before tax to 0.2 of the size of the minimum wage.