OSCE press freedom watchdog hails Kyrgyzstan for decriminalizing libel and allowing public broadcasting

Kyrgyzstan Materials 28 March 2007 10:07

( OSCE ) - The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Miklos Haraszti, today commended the Kyrgyz Parliament's decision to abolish criminal libel and insult laws as well as President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's "green light" for public service broadcasting.

"I view the decriminalisation of defamation in Kyrgyzstan as a sign of the country's commitment to freedom of the media. It will allow journalists to report on issues of public interest and criticize public officials without fear of prosecution and imprisonment for expressing an opinion," Haraszti said.

The Kyrgyz Parliament approved the removal of Articles on libel and insult as part of amendments to the Criminal Code. After all the amendments have been discussed and adopted, they will be forwarded to the President for his approval.

In another positive move, President Bakiyev on 25 March withdrew an objection to the draft law "On setting up public television". Last year, he had rejected a similar proposal that would transform the National Television and Radio Corporation into a public service broadcaster.

"The new draft law opens up the possibility for truly independent broadcasting," Haraszti said. "Both decriminalisation of libel and the establishment of public broadcasting will be first of a kind in Central Asia. I hope there will be no delay in passing these laws."

Both reforms have long been recommended by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media.