Kyrgyz MPs managed to push "draconian" amendments through the Criminal Code in three readings, providing punishment for false reports in the media, despite the protests of civil sector and pen-drivers. Journalists can be imprisoned for up to three years, if the court determines that any information based on data from own sources is unreliable.
When there is a lack of "dignity"
The initiators of this document were the members of Ar-Namys faction. One of the authors Eristina Kochkarova explained that in such a way the MPs are trying to deal with the "flow of mud and slander in the media". And the lady justifies this initiative saying that not only the media professionals will be criminally liable. Officials as well as ordinary Kyrgyz people with active civic stance, disseminating information through the media, which later turns out to be untrue, will appear before the court as correspondents. Taking into account the "honesty" of local courts, it is not hard to imagine that the initiative of the parliamentary "Dignity" will be the weapon, primarily, for the deputies themselves against the unwanted journalists.
And experts agree that "do not fully understand the essence of the amendments approved by the Parliament and can't understand the principles of its implementation." But the fact is that it will hinder journalists to obtain information. As a rule, correspondents, and not only in Kyrgyzstan, use their own sources, without giving publicity to the names of their interlocutors. This practice is common throughout the world, where there are newspapers, television, radio and the Internet. But it is unlikely that, with the adoption of this law, there will be anyone who would "spill" spicy information, fearing to go to jail in case of filing a claim to the court. The "island of democracy" had a lot of cases when, the so-called, source denied his words during the trial and the entire onus rested on the shoulders of a journalist.
However, the authors of the amendments assure that their initiative doesn't infringe on freedom of speech at all. As usual, the fifth convocation of parliament blames the representatives of writing profession. They misinterpret the draft law itself, Eristina Kochkarova assures. "The proposed bill is interpreted incorrectly, in other words, only by a half. None of media representatives and experts note that they suggest prosecuting for false reports. We don't encroach upon the freedom of speech. We will have great parliamentary election in future. There will be prosecution of serious crimes, corruption and there can be artificial evidences. It is necessary to prosecute people who spread these messages," Eristina Kochkarova stated.
Again finished to start
Controversy arose within the discussion of the document in the relevant committees. However, weak voices of the parliamentarians Shirin Aitmatova and Myktybek Abdyldaev, urging colleagues not to support these amendments and their reasons, why they can not do this - that the parliament is corrupt and nevertheless his law will not work, it will turn into another whip for "stimuli", and indeed the document was copied from the Russian analogue - drowned in a friendly choir of common "approve".
Earlier the representative of the Social Democratic Party faction (the ruling party) Galina Skripkina advocated a similar proposal. Her amendments evoked a wide response, and the author had to withdraw the bill.
Out of 85 deputies only seven - Shirin Atymatova, Rosa Aknazarova, Bakyt Dzhetigenov, Yrgal Kadyralieva, Abdymanap Kutushev, Bakytbek Kalmamatov and Daniyar Terbishaliev, voted against. On Thursday, the deputy from the "Democrats" Omurbek Abdyrakhmanov, suddenly recollecting, asked the Speaker to vote on the document again. He explained his claim saying that "MPs simply didn't understand what they voted for". "Including me. This law shouldn't be taken. This is the violation of not only journalists' rights, but also human rights, that is contrary to the Constitution," Omurbek Abdyrakhmanov stated and added that together with more 10 deputies he sent a letter of recommendation to consider revote on the bill at the meeting of the committee on ethics and regulations.
What can be simpler?
While lawmakers cross swords, human rights activists sound the alarm. Thus, the Ombudsman Bakytbek Amanbaev stated that this document violates articles of the Constitution on freedom of access to information and the right to disseminate it, unless we are not talking about the overthrow of the existing system or calling for interregional, interethnic or interreligious hatred.
And the Institute of Media Policy representatives, on the contrary, haven't noticed any infringement on the rights of journalists or their work in the amendments to the Criminal Code on "false reports".
"In our opinion, after the parliamentary committee on law and order considered the bill, it has undergone significant changes and will not threat journalists now. The document, which was proposed by the committee, excludes such words as "connected with public accusation of corruption", as well as in compliance with the Article 3 is a section 151, where the phrase "misleading information" shall be replaced by the words "false denunciation". The current edition of the Code of Criminal Procedure states that "the applicant is given notice about criminal responsibility for misleading information, what is marked in the record, certified by the applicant's signature," the institute representatives explain.
It is noted that "before writing any article media representatives must remember about the inadmissibility of spreading false information about what they are warned by existing civil law."
"But the amendments to the Criminal Code regarding "false reports" have now nothing to do with them, including in relation to the Article 33 of the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic, which establishes ban on prosecution for disseminating information, discrediting or humiliating honor and dignity," the Institute of Media Policy (IMP) reports.
IMP explained to 24.kg news agency that, in case of applying sanctions under the new amendments, it can be a reason for appealing to the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court. "Any restriction of free speech is contrary to the Basic Law of the Kyrgyz Republic and may be appealed to a higher court," the institute informed.
According to the media expert Akmat Alagushev, theoretically it is possible that a journalist will be brought to criminal liability for disseminating information, which subsequently was proved false. "This precedent happened with the main editor of "De facto" publication. In the end she left the country. But now we have other times and other power. The Constitution protects us, namely the Article 305. So, in this case, the "false report" can be seen not as a whip for the media, but as a warning to those, who intend to address the police. If the inspection shows that a informer lied, he will be prosecuted. Certainly, it is very difficult for unprofessional lawyer in the intricacies of this draft law. But I can say unequivocally: we shouldn't make unnecessary fuss about the adoption of the document," Akmat Alagushev considers.
How much truth for people costs?
Now it's for the president to decide. The amendments to the Criminal Code of the Kyrgyz Republic "on false reports" will be submitted for signature of Almazbek Atambayev after the approval. Even if he would veto, deputies can overcome it. In this case, as Bakytbek Amanbayev stated, as the chief defender of the country, he will challenge the illegality of this document in the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court.
In the meantime, certain media outlets continue to publish rumors and speculations, which can't stand elementary criticism, without the claim to authenticity. However, the servants of people themselves and officials of the executive branch are not confused by the candid stories, called "ushak" for some reason. Then what causes them to feel nervous?