(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has expressed its concern after the editor of the Mongolian daily newspaper "Ug" ("Word") was jailed for one year for publishing false information that led indirectly to the death of a woman the daily had named as a possible AIDS victim.
On 31 July 2002, a court in the Sukhbaatar district of the capital, Ulan Bator, sentenced editor Hand-dolgor to a one-year prison term after she was found guilty of "defamation" under Article 117.2 of the Criminal Law. She was taken to Gants Hudag Detention Centre to serve her sentence.
On 5 March, her newspaper carried an article deploring the spread of AIDS in Selenge province, on Mongolia's northern border. A woman was named in the article as a supposed AIDS victim who had a large number of sexual partners. After a health check by officials found her HIV-negative, the editor published a front-page apology that appeared on 26 April. However, on 18 May, the woman was beaten to death by one of her lovers, who had demanded proof that she did not have AIDS.
"Defamation is a crime that should be punished, however, following the example of the United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of expression, RSF believes that a jail term is a disproportionate sanction. The editor of 'Ug' cannot be held directly responsible for the tragic events that followed the publication of the article," RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard said in a letter to Mongolian Justice and Internal Affairs Minister Tsendiin Nyamdorj.
While condemning the flagrant breach of journalistic ethics in the case, RSF urged the minister to ensure that the journalist would benefit from a fair appeals hearing.