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Journalist ordered to compensate member of parliament

(IMI/IFEX) - 7 October 2010 - The Kyiv appellate court ruled in favour of Member of Parliament Yuriy But (BYuT) in a libel case against Olga Snisarchuk, a journalist for Channel 5 who had referred to the MP as a "defector" in a news story. The journalist was ordered to pay 20,000 hryvnias (approx. US$2,500) in compensation. The appellate court upheld the decision of the Podilskiy district court of Kyiv in the case concerning the online edition of "Ukrainska Pravda".

The MP had demanded 100,000 hryvnias in damages. "I was obliged to take care of my health, I was in a state of chock and I had to restart a normal life and work. I started taking drugs to normalize my nervous system," Mr. But said. He claimed the journalist's story was the cause for his suffering insomnia, an acute headache and being in a depressive state.

Snisarchuk defended her right to express a value judgment, in accordance with the law on information and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Mr. But was the first MP to leave the Orange coalition in 2008. He is currently the head of the parliamentary committee forming the judicial corporation in Ukraine.

IMI's lawyer stated: "We feel that the journalist's right to freedom of expression was infringed upon, since the word 'defector' could be considered as an opinion. And no one can deny the fact that in 2008 MP But was the first to leave the coalition that supported Tymoshenko's government. So the journalist had reasons to employ the word 'defector'. Another thing is that Mr. But is presiding over the parliamentary committee which forms the judicial corporation, so it is probable his standing could have influenced the decision of the judges on this case."

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