The Parliament of Kyrgyzstan again raises its favorite theme - control over the media. A group of 14 deputies suggested introducing responsibility "for misleading message". A majority of deputies supported the suggested draft law the day before at session. Recall that it isn't the first attempt of deputies to take control over the media. In November 2013 the member of SDPK faction Galina Skripkina had already proposed initiating responsibility "for misleading information". However the document was withdrawn after stormy public outrage.
The deputy of Ar-Namys faction Eristina Kochkarova was the initiator of present draft law. The MP of "Dignity" noted that her initiative has nothing common with suggestions of Galina Skripkina. She noted that the responsible for misleading information will be not the media published it, but those who spread. The media will bear responsibility in case spreading the information "from their own sources". Recall that the leader of "Dignity" Felix Kulov was dissatisfied with publication about him and his faction repeatedly.
24.kg News Agency decided to find out from respondents what for deputies raise the issue of control over the media again and again.
Ludmila Zholmukhamedova, Chairwoman of the Public Oversight Board under Kara-Balta Mayor's Office:
-A strong unwillingness to reckon that the public can have other, different from authoritative opinions stands behind it. Even now everything is done in order the population keep silent and the media not to announce certain positions. For example, there in a person in Kara-Balta town, who worked in law enforcement bodies for some time and now he is successfully engaged in a public-private business. So, on all opinions that do not coincide with his personal one he shouts: "I'll take legal actions against you!" He takes photos of his opponents and records on dictaphone. In a way, he reached the goal - all shy away from him in different directions. I imagine how easily he uses new norm! If his opponents reach media, he will start legal proceedings to with pleasure. I suppose that it isn't necessary to introduce such notion. If untruth is published, it can be denied by existing rules. And the notion "misleading message" - is a heavy clod of soft sticky clay. And at present real information reaches authorities with delay and not all. After introduction of such notion it risks to be unnoticed at all. I don't think that it is in the interests of the state. We should work with information. It should be used in the interests of the state. To prohibit is the last thing.
Ilim Karypbekov, Chairman of the Public Oversight Body under OTRK:
-It is possible, that deputies raise this question in order to eliminate or, at least, reduce a number of false reports in the media. Such initiative, at first, was unpromising from the view of set goals and will affect deputies negatively. Firstly, journalists and media community of the country will oppose because it is one of the main achievements of two revolutions in the country and the society won't agree to refuse it for no particular reason. Closed media, beaten and killed journalists are fresh in our memories. Secondly, opposition movements, political groups, certain individuals will surely use criticizing authorities. Their arguments always place the blame for pressure on media from authorities. Thus the main demand before April events was also monopolization of control over media in the country. Certain individuals wishing to score points or, using the opportunity, will get even with hateful opponents. Thirdly, even if we allow introduction of this norm, as criminal penalty, the problem of media recovery won't be resolved. The media sources overwhelmingly reflect the processes in society. That is to change society itself should change in order to improve the content, presentation of information culture. For example, if to pass a law limiting decline in prices of som to dollar, dollar exchange rate won't stop growing due to this law. So also the same media need a range of measures. The notion of "misleading information" is evaluative itself and each case subject to rigorous study.
I believe that this initiative isn't necessary today, it's a waste of time and resources. I think that at present we should better think about economic situation in the country.
Kanybek Imanaliyev, the MP from Ar-Namys party:
- I vigorously oppose the draft law. We all strived for forming democratic society, including freedom of speech and media activities. That is why we mustn't return to old methods under no circumstances. Yes, we should admit that journalists publish information, which doesn't correspond to reality. And for these actions they must be responsible. But they also can be brought to account by administrative means. I am totally against introducing of criminal penalty for publication of misleading information.
Khadicha Harsanova, producer:
-Member of Ar-Namys faction, who suggested introducing responsibility of the media for misleading information doesn't clearly understanding what he is doing. If people's deputies aren't in the know, so we can educate them: usually (it is worldwide practice) such kind of punishment is applied to those who announce "misleading information about terrorist threats." And that is all. As to "Laying the blame" on the media, I'm sure: owing to it deputies, probably, want and even will manage to whitewash themselves somehow. After all, these cottages, apartments, cars - all earned by "difficult deputy's labor" are registered on close relatives, wives and mistresses. And a deputy himself is "poor as a church mouse." Eristina Kochkarova wants to help in sorting out the situation in the media: she, apparently, doesn't know that almost all Kyrgyz-press survives due to "ushaktar" (rumors) and long time ago already. There is a category of readers and advertisers, who don't consider Kyrgyz publications as the media.
And one more thing, dear deputies, believe: if you suddenly "abolish" draft law and somebody of your colleagues is taken to prison - no matter for year or month - nobody of us will be left aside. Because, unlike you, we have such concepts as corporate ethics, freedom of speech and writing fraternity.
Irina Karamushkina, the Deputy of SDPK (the ruling party), one of the authors of the draft law:
-At present many have drawn parallels with our bill and those proposed by Galina Skripkina. In fact, possibly they may contain anything in common. What is it? Desire to bring to justice those who spread false information, including journalists. Various news media are used by millions of people on the basis of their opinion about various events and people. Therefore, the media should be responsible for the information spread. And then, we get the situation when a journalist publishes a message, knowing that it had no proof, but he (she) does not want to answer.
For example, we, MPs, public figures are responsible for everything we do and say. Journalist - is also a public profession, and therefore should be responsible for their actions. Now many media see our bill as an attempt to press on freedom of speech. But it isn't so. The bill's authors didn't have such a goal. Some media outlets and journalists use their power to harm. We do not want our citizens to have manipulated by the media.
Khulkar Isamova, correspondent of Reuters International News Agency:
- I have an ambivalent attitude towards this issue. On the one hand, I agree with the developers of the bill. Recently, many media really sin spreading rumors and gossip. This can lead to stress in the society. You can not create materials on unverified information. So, of course, some measures to deal with such a phenomenon should be implemented.
On the other hand, these bills strongly resemble the authorities' attempt to throw the "bridle" on the media. Therefore, any initiative to introduce liability for spreading false information by the media communities regarded as an encroachment on freedom of speech. And quite often, the media is absolutely right trying to stop any attempts of pressure. If the bill is approved, possibly, the Kyrgyz media will start talking about censorship again. This can't be allowed.
Akmat Alagushev, media representative:
- I agree with the proposal made by a group of deputies headed by Eristina Kochkarova . And the first question that arises is: why the word "inside information" isn't liked? This bill is virtually the same as that recently proposed by SDPK Deputy Galina Skripkina. So why it is so necessary to change the word "inside information" to "false information", if the bill's meaning hasn't changed a bit? At the moment, such initiatives are contrary to the Constitution. The paragraph 5 of Article 33 of the fundamental law of the country decriminalized slander. Why was it necessary to do this if it was another attempt to introduce penalties, changing other legislation?
According to the current legislation of Kyrgyzstan, no one can be held criminally liable for the dissemination of information that is untrue and defaming someone's honor and dignity. Therefore, these initiatives - attempt to return to impose criminal liabilities for defamation. After all, what is the difference between "defamation" and "misleading information"? Of course, no difference at all.
I read comments of Eristina Kochkarova , who says that will be the first source will be responsible for false report. Perhaps, here she was insincere, when she said that journalists will not be responsible for the dissemination of false messages. Then, who will be responsible? I believe that the deputies have a misunderstanding of some processes and resentment at the media, which transform into such initiatives.
Kanatbek Murzakhalilov, the expert:
- In my opinion, the adoption of these standards will entail infringement of fundamental human rights and freedoms. Formally, declaring the democratization of society, the authorities actually starting a total control over the activities of the media. This is inadmissible.
Recent history of Kyrgyzstan has shown that when authorities impose censorship, the result is the most lamentable. The category of "deliberately false information" will be subject to all the materials affecting somehow the range of interests and criticize those in power. In general, there is new stage of strengthening of the power of one party and its founder. I fear that in the near future other similar prohibitive bills will be initiated.
On the other hand, representatives of the media also mustn't be in chase of sensation publishing unchecked materials. It is necessary to comply with the Journalists' Code of Honor.