Defamation bill recalled from Ukraine parliament

AP News
Posted: Sep 26, 2012 7:30 AM
Defamation bill recalled from Ukraine parliament

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Facing international criticism, Ukraine's ruling party announced Wednesday it's recalling a bill that envisioned jail time for defamation — a rare victory for civil society in the ex-Soviet nation.

Critics of the proposed legislation, which was backed by the ruling party-dominated parliament, said it would have enabled censorship and been used by authorities to silence government critics.

The bill, which last week passed a first reading, called for penalties of up to five years in jail for defamation. The draft law drew condemnation from international watchdogs and prompted leading news outlets in Ukraine to put up black banners on their websites.

One of Ukraine's top magazines, Korrespondent, said its issue this week would feature a blank cover to protest the bill.

President Viktor Yanukovych's Party of Regions said one its lawmakers, Vitaly Zhuravsky, had recalled his bill from parliament and would rework it together with civil society groups. Yanukovych, who is in New York to attend the U.N. General Assembly, said Zhuravsky made the decision after talking with him and fellow party members.

"Such decisions cannot be made hastily," Yanukovych was quoted as saying on his website.

Watchdogs say media freedoms in Ukraine have come under threat since Yanukovych came to power two years ago. They accuse the government of resorting to censorship and pressuring independent news outlets ahead of the Oct. 28 parliamentary election.