Kazakhstan decriminalizes libel

12 months ago Web Desk 0

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev signed off the law on June 27 and the new rules have entered into force.


Kazakh lawmakers say the law brings Kazakhstan’s criminal and administrative legislation more in line with international law.


The initiative reportedly came from Tokayev, who at a December session of the National Council of Public Confidence, a forum whose creation he casts as a way for the government to engage in dialogue with civic society, touted the proposed change as a signal of his reformist intentions. Kazakhstan has for many years been pressed by its international partners to repeal criminal liability for libel, which is also included among the guidelines of the Istanbul Anti-Corruption Action Plan promulgated by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.


The amendments, however, have not been without their critics. The speech advocacy group Adil Soz has stated that rather than decriminalizing defamation, the changes introduce even stricter penalties which threaten freedom of expression in the country, according to Fergana news agency.


Tamara Kaleyeva, president of Adil Soz, is unimpressed and described the changes as “partial and miserable,” according to Eurasianet.


She said that libel and defamation cases will still remain the purview of the Prosecutor General’s Office. And since measures like massive fines and custodial penalties still remain in force, the change is only cosmetic, she said.


What would have been more logical, Kaleyeva told Eurasianet, would have been for libel to be transferred to the civil code and for victims of smears to settle their issues through private legal suits. That way, judges would have the discretion to impose less onerous financial sanctions than the fixed and inflexible penalties envisioned in the administrative infraction.


Source: Asia plus