VIENNA, 19 September 2012 – The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic, expressed concern today over legislative steps towards re-criminalizing defamation in Ukraine.
“I call on all members of parliament to reject the proposed amendment, which would represent a serious setback for media freedom in the country. Criminalizing speech in a modern democracy means stifling debate and protecting public officials from criticism, and can only lead to self-censorship on the part of the media,” said Mijatovic.
The Verkhovna Rada (parliament) of Ukraine adopted yesterday in a first reading an amendment to the criminal code introducing the crime of libel. The new article would introduce penalties of up to three years of imprisonment.
“I sincerely hope that this amendment will not be adopted in the second reading, so that the media in Ukraine can continue its important role of informing the society on issues of public interest without fear of facing criminal charges,” said Mijatovic.
“As I pointed out in a letter sent to Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Gryshchenko on 14 September, this is truly an unfortunate development. In 2001 Ukraine was among the first countries in the OSCE region to decriminalize defamation and it was due to this important reform that Ukraine has achieved its reputation as one of the most liberal legal media environments in the region.”
The Representative concluded her statement by offering her Office’s full assistance to the ongoing legal reform in Ukraine.