Ukraine might impose criminal liability for defamation

Author : Yaroslav Konoshchuk

Source : 112 Ukraine

Some MPs from Petro Poroshenko’s Bloc decided to return to the experience of Yanukovych's "dictatorship laws"
09:52, 23 November 2018

Moment of silence in Ukraine's Parliament

Members of the Ukrainian parliament discuss criminal liability for defamation again. On the eve of the fifth anniversary of the Revolution of Dignity, and a little less than five years after the abolition of the so-called "dictatorship laws" (group of ten laws restricting freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, passed by the Parliament of Ukraine on January 16, 2014 – Ed.), some deputies decided to return to the experience of the " predecessors," thus congratulating the Ukrainians on the anniversary of the revolution. MPs from Petro Poroshenko’s Bloc (BPP) Mykola Palamarchuk, Artur Palatny, and Oleh Velikin suggested that the parliament should return the penalty for slander and defamation.

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This is not the first attempt to introduce criminal liability for libel. In 2012, the corresponding proposal was made by MP Vitaly Zhuravsky from Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, but after an explosive public reaction, the initiative was withdrawn. On January 16, 2014, the parliament passed "dictatorship laws," which, among other things, introduced responsibility for libel. Then it was proposed to fine for defamation or to sentence to public works, and libel with accusations of carrying out a particularly grave crime should be penalized with limiting freedom for up to two years. However, after mass protests, "dictatorial laws" have sunk into oblivion.

And now, after almost 5 years since those events, the MPs again returned to the idea of punishment for slander. Mykola Palamarchuk, Artur Palatny, and Oleh Velikin propose to put the violator (for defamation with accusations of committing a particularly serious crime) behind the bars for three years, and to fine with 120-300 USD for defaming the post in social media. In addition, Ukrainian parliamentarians emphasize that the legislation of a number of European countries criminalizes defamation. At the same time, the MPs from the BPP support the decision taken in 2001 on the abolition of criminal liability for defamation.

Related: Bill on media censorship proposed to Parliament

So, when you are in opposition, you call the similar laws “dictatorship,” and when you come to power, you take the arguments of the Yanukovych’s team that criminal responsibility for defamation is something usual in the EU. But Ukrainian courts are not the European ones, and the equality of all before the law is not observed. And no one says that this norm is a pressure against freedom of speech.

According to sources of 112 Ukraine in the pro-presidential political force, the bill is the reaction of MP Palamarchuk to the story of the former assistant Ihor Pavlovsky. Pavlovsky was arrested for two months on suspicion of complicity in the murder of public activist Kateryna Handzyuk.

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“The bill is Palamarchuk’s personal initiative. It was not discussed during the faction meeting,” sources in BPP faction assured.

The deputy himself confirmed that the return to the law of criminal responsibility for libel is his personal initiative.

“I introduced the bill, because a heap of unreasonable slander was poured on me,” the MP explained, disagreeing with comparing his own initiative with Yanukovych’s laws of 2014. He added that he did not believe in the support of the deputies' corps of their own legislative initiative, but only sought to attract public attention to it.

Related: 112 Ukraine regards bill No.9275 another attempt to introduce political censorship

It seems that he succeeded in it. Active social media users offered to imprison MPs for lying, and the chairman of the National Union of Journalists, Serhiy Tomilenko, called the bill a ban on the profession. However, taking into account bills blocking websites previously registered in parliament, as well as responsibility for “propaganda of Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics terrorist organizations ,” attempts to close the lobby of the Verkhovna Rada for journalists are hardly the last such initiative registered in the highest legislative body of the country. There is a suspicion that the implementation of such initiatives will depend, among other things, on the public resonance.


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