Ukrainian Deputies Want to Imprison Journalists for 5 Years for “Slander”

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


On November 20 draft law No. 9306 featuring amendments to the Criminal and Criminal Procedural Codes of Ukraine concerning the establishment of responsibility for slander was introduced in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.

The authors of this draft law are deputies from “Bloc of Petro Poroshenko” Nikolay Palamarchuk, Artur Palatny, and Oleg Velikin. As a reminder, the former assistant Nikolay Palamarchuk was arrested on the case of the murder of the Kherson official Ekaterina Gandzyuk who died on November 4.

Deputies suggest to add to the Criminal Code the article 151-2 “Slander” along with sanctions in the form of a fine in the amount of 200 to 500 tax-free minimum wages (from 3,400 to 8,500 hryvnia), corrective work for a period of up to one year, or restriction of freedom for a period of up to 2 years.

In the event that slander or the intended distribution of obviously fake statements is carried out “via the public display work in the media or on the Internet”, deputies propose a fine in the amount of 8,500 to 25,500 hryvnia, corrective work for a period of 1 to 2 years, or the restriction of freedom for a period of 2 to 5 years.

In the event that the slander is connected to “charges of committing a serious or especially serious crime”, in addition to the sanctions stated above legislators demand the deprivation of the right to hold certain positions or to be engaged in certain activities for up to 3 years or indefinitely.

The authors of the draft law specify in the explanatory note that “recently in Ukraine, unfortunately, freedom of speech in the country is even more often confused with permissiveness to distribute frankly unverified, if not completely false facts”. “The instance where accusations are heard from some media agencies against a People’s Deputy of Ukraine about their participation in the commission of an especially serious crime (attacking the public activist K. Gandzyuk)” was given as such an example.

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The head of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine Sergey Tomilenko stated that the draft law bans the profession. “This is about the criminalisation of slander, which the public already actively protested against in 2012. And it was precisely due to the pressure of the media and society that Viktor Yanukovych didn’t opt to draw up in parliament an initiative to jail people for slander. And here we are again… Actually, people’s deputies from the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko call to jail journalists for criticising the authorities … In no civilised country doesn’t such a thing exist!” stated the head of NUJU.

The National Union of Journalists called to boycott draft law No. 9306.

Attempts to adopt a law on slander in Ukraine were made in 2012. Back then the Verkhovna Rada made the decision to cancel the law “On Amendments to the Criminal and Criminal Procedure Codes of Ukraine Concerning Strengthening Responsibility for the Infringement of the Honour, Dignity, and Business Reputation of People,” which had been approved earlier at the first reading.

The greatest resonance in the public was caused by an attempt – which almost was crowned with success – to impose a punishment for slander in 2014. As a reminder, in January, in the package of dictatorial “laws on January 16” authored by the deputies from the Party of Regions Vladimir Oleinik and Vadim Kolesnichenko, there was also a draft law on returning criminal liability for such an offense. As is known, these laws were cancelled a few weeks after they were adopted.

As Uspishna Varta human rights activists earlier reported, on November 7th 2018 deputies of the parliament from the “Bloc of Petro Poroshenko” and “People’s Front” factions registered draft law No. 9275 “On amendments to some laws of Ukraine concerning protection of the information space”. In the event that the law is adopted, blocking of work of the Ukrainian media agencies that are suspected of assisting “terrorist activity” will be authorised.

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On October 4 the Verkhovna Rada urged the National Security and Defense Council to impose sanctions on the 112 Ukraine and NewsOne” TV channels, in particular to cancel their licenses and to forbid them from using the Ukrainian radio-frequency resource. As the experts of “Uspishna Varta” earlier noted, the resolution of the Verkhovna Rada violates not only the Constitution of Ukraine, but also a number of international obligations that were assumed by Ukraine.

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