Parliament takes first backward step to criminalizing defamation
The draft law tabled by Party of the Regions MP Vitaly Zhuravsky on re-introducing criminal liability for defamation and circulating false information has been adopted in its first reading by Ukraine’s parliament. Defamation was decriminalized back in 2003 with this generally seen by media and human rights organizations as having been a significant move forward.
The votes were all from the ruling majority with the Party of the Regions, the Communist Party and the People’s Party (Speaker Lytvyn’s party)
As reported, Zhuravsky proposes considering “slander” to be “the circulation of knowingly false information insulting the honour and dignity of a person or undermining his reputation” Punishment would range from a fine of 500 to 5000 times the minimum wage before tax (from 8500 UAH to 85 thousand, where 1 EUR is roughly 10.5 UAH), corrective labour or imprisonment from 3 to 8 months. If the circulation of information led to a serious worsening in health, the term of imprisonment would range from 3 to 5 years.
Who would determine the “serious worsening in health” is only one of the concerns related to this bill which follows the adoption of a bill reinstating such liability in Russia. The latter has been strongly condemned by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s Co-Rapporteur on Russia and a number of international media and human rights organizations.
The draft law obviously supported by the Party of the Regions has been roundly criticized in Ukraine as a highly regressive move. On 31 July the international NGO Reporters without Borders also addressed a letter to Ukrainian MPs expressing concern over this retrograde move