Damage award against journalist in Tajikistan may stifle public debate, says OSCE media freedom representative
NEW YORK, 26 February 2014 - OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović today expressed regret over a decision by a court in Tajikistan requiring journalist Olga Tutubalina to pay damages for defaming the country’s intelligentsia.
On 25 February a civil district court awarded an amount equivalent to approximately €4,500 to three plaintiffs that had claimed they were damaged by the article, “Unintelligent about intelligentsia,” even though they were not named in the story. They said they endured “physical and mental suffering” from statements allegedly insulting the intelligentsia which were published on the Asia Plus website.
“If those who can claim injury are not clearly defined, any disagreement of opinion could end up as a damage claim,” Mijatović said. “A democratic society must allow for public debate without triggering financial penalties.”
Mijatović is in New York participating in an international conference on media freedom.
The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media observes media developments in all 57 OSCE participating States. She provides early warning on violations of freedom of expression and media freedom, and promotes full compliance with OSCE media freedom commitments. Learn more at www.osce.org/fom, Twitter: @OSCE_RFoM and on facebook.com/osce.rfom.