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Journalist sentenced to prison for libeling de facto president of Abkhazia

(WAN-IFRA/IFEX) - In a letter to the de facto president of Abkhazia, WAN-IFRA called on him to ensure that the conviction of journalist Anton Kriveniuk is overturned and that libel is decriminalised:

Sergei Bagapsh
de facto President of Abkhazia
Sukhumi, Abkhazia

19 October 2009

Dear Mr President,

We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries, to express our serious concern at the suspended jail sentence awarded to journalist Anton Kriveniuk for libel.

According to reports, on 21 September Mr Kriveniuk was sentenced by a court in Sukhumi to three years in jail - suspended for two years - for libeling you. The case followed the publication of an article entitled "Great Abkhazian Fraud: Railroad-Credit-Road Metal" that appeared on the Russian website In the article, Mr Kriveniuk criticised a proposed Russian-funded railway construction project and speculated about the transferral of certain railroad assets to Russian control. Mr Kriveniuk will reportedly appeal against the sentence.

We respectfully remind you that imprisoning Mr Kriveniuk for writing and publishing critical comments constitutes a clear breach of his right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by numerous international conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We believe that a civil award of reasonable damages is adequate and appropriate relief in all proven cases of libel.

We call on you to take all necessary steps to ensure that the conviction of Mr Kriveniuk is overturned and that libel is decriminalised.

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely,

Gavin O'Reilly
WAN-IFRA, World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

Xavier Vidal-Folch
World Editors Forum

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