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Bill to recriminalise defamation withdrawn from consideration in Ukraine

(IPI/IFEX) - VIENNA, Sep 26, 2012 - The sponsor of a bill before Ukraine's parliament that would re-criminalise defamation has said that he will withdraw the bill from consideration, at least until after parliamentary elections scheduled for Oct. 28, Reuters reported today.

Reuters said the Interfax news agency quoted Vitaly Zhuravsky as commenting: "Having weighed up all the circumstances and acting in the interests of the state, I have decided to withdraw this draft law . . . I understand that on the eve of the election to parliament any initiative like this is regarded, at the very least, with fear and mistrust."

President Viktor Yanukovych, in a statement posted to his website, said: "Zhuravsky didn't make such a decision accidentally. He heard my opinion and the opinion of his party. You can't make such decisions in haste."

Deputies from President Viktor Yanukovych's Party of Regions and their allies in parliament had given swift preliminary approval to the draft law, which would have provided up to five years' imprisonment for those convicted of libel.

The statement on Yanukovych's website said that he "noted the importance of an attentive approach to the elaboration of any laws, particularly regarding the obligations of Ukraine to the Council of Europe", and that he said Ukraine "must meet European standards in all spheres of our country".

The statement also said that "the Government must provide legislative conditions for the normal functioning of media" and that Yanukovych believed that "such laws must be evaluated by European experts." It quoted him as adding: "If we speak about all conditions for the media and do the opposite, no one will understand us."

The International Press Institute (IPI) and its affiliate, the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) welcomed the move.

IPI Deputy Director Anthony Mills said: "We are pleased to learn that this bill has been withdrawn and we urge Mr. Zhuravsky not to re-introduce it following parliamentary elections. This bill would do serious harm to the Ukrainian people's ability to obtain the information they need to make decisions that affect their future, even if it now will not do so before these elections."

Reuters reported that the proposed law "would have applied to anyone, including the media, who spread 'deliberately untrustworthy information' which denigrated a person, hurt their honor and dignity or undermined their business reputation."

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