VIENNA, 17 November 2011 – The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, welcomed today amendments to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation to decriminalize libel and insult, and specifically punish threats or violence against journalists as a professional group.
“This is a breakthrough decision that will help safeguard freedom of expression and freedom of the media in Russia,“ Mijatović said.
The amendments, which the State Duma voted into law today, scrap Articles 129 (“Libel”) and 130 (“Insult”) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. Under changes brought to Article 144 of the Criminal Code, violence or threats of violence exerted against journalists or their relatives will be punishable by up to five years of corrective labour or up to six years in jail.
“I have always urged OSCE participating States to decriminalize defamation and protect journalists from criminal prosecution. I made this point again when I met with Russian officials during my visit to Moscow in April,” Mijatović said.
“Attacks on the press are attacks on democracy. I therefore welcome the recognition by Russia’s legislators that attacks against journalists should be treated as a special category of crime.”
“I am confident today’s commendable decision will contribute to curbing violence against journalists and enhancing media freedom,” Mijatović said, expressing hope that other OSCE participating States would also take steps to ensure the safety of their journalists and decriminalize defamation.