Ukraine Government Heeds Concerns and Withdraws Controversial Defamation Bill

Sep 27, 2012, 09:11 ET from Ukraine Foreign Affairs

NEW YORK, September 27, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --

A controversial law in Ukraine that could have imposed a five-year jail term for defamation has been recalled following criticism from Ukraine's media, civil society groups and even MPs of President Viktor Yanukovych's own Party of Regions.

Mr Yanukovych confirmed the policy reversal during a visit to the United Nations, where he further promised to strengthen the rule of law in Ukraine saying: "We will study and take into account the best practices of other countries in the course of constitutional development."

The defamation bill was introduced from the floor of the Rada (parliament) by one of the ruling party's MPs, Vitaly Zhuravsky, who has now moved to revoke it.

"Zhuravsky did not take the decision to call it off by accident," Yanukovych said. "He heard my point of view, the point of view of his fellow party members. These kinds of decisions cannot be taken hastily."

"If we say on the one hand we are creating the right conditions for journalists and the media and then do the opposite, no-one will understand us," he said.

Addressing concerns about media freedom in the Ukraine in the lead up to the parliamentary elections on October 28th, Yanukovych said, "Ukraine should stick to European standards in all spheres," a statement that is likely to be welcomed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

The decision has been applauded within Ukraine as a victory for common sense and hailed by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry as an example of a reform-minded Government showing it can be flexible in the face of a well-argued counter position.

Mr Yanukovych was speaking from New York, where he addressed the United Nations General Assembly. He used his speech to reaffirm Ukraine's willingness to be a key player in helping the victims of global conflict. In 2011 Ukraine was praised for the way it evacuated citizens from Libya as the civil unrest spread.

"I want to assure you that Ukrainian planes and ships that can be used to evacuate people from hot spots will always be available to those who need help, regardless of their nationality," Yanukovych said.

"In this case we are not talking about a one-time action, but about Ukraine's determination to use its resources to protect civilians in conflict zones."

In recent years 34,000 Ukrainians have taken part in UN peacekeeping missions in more than 20 different operations from Guatemala and Timor-Leste to Croatia and Mozambique, and evacuated civilians from war-torn Libya and Syria.

SOURCE Ukraine Foreign Affairs