A leading trans-Atlantic rights and security group has praised Kyrgyzstan for becoming the first country in former Soviet Central Asia to decriminalize libel.

Dunja Mijatovic, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's media rights representative, said Tuesday that the decision would strengthen press freedom.

The amendment to the criminal code was approved by President Roza Otunbayeva last week, bringing the law in line with a revamped constitution approved in a national referendum in 2010.

Pro-government politicians in Central Asia frequently pursue defamation cases as a way of silencing critical reporters.

Mijatovic pressed authorities to consider also repealing legal provisions envisioning criminal prosecution for insulting public officials.


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