Penalty for defamation

27 January 2023
Penalty for defamation
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Penalty for defamation 

Draft bill #8380 of January 24, 2023 

Sponsor: Antonina Slavytska, the Restoration of Ukraine group 

Who is affected: media, journalists, NGOs, users of social media 

Summary of the bill: “negative information about a person” will be assumed untrue unless a person who shared this information proves that it is true. 

What is wrong: 

  • it is hard to predict what negative consequences the bill will bring if adopted. The bill affects both the work of media and even regular conversations between citizens who will be forced to censor things they say 
  • the bill violates obligations of Ukraine under the European Convention on Human Rights: any person has the right to freedom of expression 
  • there are no clear criteria to establish what constitutes negative information. As a result, it will be possible to consider any information about a particular person as negative 
  • the bill will hinder the work of media, in particular, the work of journalists investigating the activities of officials and government bodies since practically all their publications contain negative information 
  • the bill introduces a presumption of guilt for sharing negative information. 

Additional information: a provision about defamation existed in Ukrainian legislation before 2014. After the Revolution of Dignity, it was excluded. 

Alternative solution: the bill should be withdrawn. There is a procedure to protect the honor and business reputation in Ukraine already: a person can sue a party spreading disinformation about him or her. Currently, this is the best solution for keeping the balance between ensuring the freedom of speech and fighting hate speech.