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Plan to recriminalise defamation threatens freedom of information in Ukraine

(RSF/IFEX) - 19 September 2012 - Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns the Ukrainian parliament's approval on first reading yesterday of a bill that would recriminalize defamation, and urges lawmakers to reverse this decision by rejecting the bill on second reading.

"Ukraine will go back 11 years if defamation's re-inclusion in the criminal code is confirmed," Reporters Without Borders said. "It would run counter to the worldwide trend and would clearly violate the international conventions Ukraine has ratified, starting with the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

"Such a return to the past would have a major impact on freedom of information in Ukraine. Journalists already have to confront many dangers and an increase in self-censorship inside news organizations. Now they would have to fear judicial harassment as well. The resulting intimidation effect would threaten the very existence of independent journalism."

Reporters Without Borders calls on Stefan Füle, the European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, to make it clear to the Ukrainian government that adoption of this bill would be incompatible with closer association with the European Union.

Passed on first reading by 244 votes out of 450, Draft Law No. 11013 re-establishes criminal responsibility for media offences and makes them punishable by up to five years in prison.

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