Criminal Defamation of Public Officials
Criminal Defamation of the Head of State
Criminal Defamation of the State and its Symbols
Desecration of the state emblem of the Kyrgyz Republic or the state flag of the Kyrgyz Republic (Criminal Code Art. 352) is punished with a fine of 50 to 100 specified rates or imprisonment for up to one year.
There is not believed to be any court practice regarding this provision. However, it is considered possible that it could be used to prosecute verbal or written insult.
Criminal Defamation of Foreign Heads of State
Criminal Defamation of Foreign States and Symbols
Criminal Defamation of the Deceased
It should be noted that the Law of 31 December 2008 “On Freedom of Religion and Religious Organisations in the Kyrgyz Republic” contains provisions (Art. 4) on the responsibility for “the deliberate insult of citizens’ feelings in connection with their religious beliefs ”. However, Art. 146 of the Criminal Code regarding the “obstruction of implementing the right to freedom of conscience and religion” prescribes responsibility only for “illegal obstruction of activities of religious organizations or performance of religious rites”. This provision does not contain responsibility for insulting the feelings of citizens in connection with their religious beliefs.
Criminal Law and Media
Recent Legal Changes
Criminal provisions on defamation and insult were recently repealed in Kyrgyzstan.
The trend of declining criminal prosecution for defamation in Kyrgyzstan began in 2010 with the adoption of a new constitution following a national referendum. The current Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic bans criminal prosecution for slander: “The prohibition guarantees on criminal prosecution for the dissemination of information that impugns the honour and injures the dignity of a person, established by this Constitution, is not subject to any restrictions”.
However, the article in the Criminal Code of the Kyrgyz Republic on slander (Art. 127) was repealed only in 2011. This was a significant event, as the campaign for the decriminalisation of this provision began in late 1997. Kyrgyzstan’s Jogorku Kenesh (Parliament) rejected an attempt to exclude the possibility of imprisonment for slander four times (in 1997, 2001, 2003 and 2007). Legislators believed that such articles on “slander” and “insult” had to be part of the Criminal Code, because as a matter of practice in most cases these articles were applied in relation to members of the media and journalists. This view caused concern to both media organisations and civil society, as such provisions had been used to intimidate the media and journalists.
In 1995, the chief editor of the newspaper Respublika (Республика) and his deputy were sentenced to one-and-a-half years in prison for slander based on charges brought by then- President A. Akayev (А. Акаев). As an additional punishment they were deprived of their right to engage in professional activities for one year. In two years’ time (1997), the chief editor and a columnist of the newspaper “Respublika” were sentenced to one-and-a-half years in a prison settlement. Further, two journalists of the same newspaper were banned from professional activities for one-and-a-half years.
In 2010. a political analyst from the Kyrgyz-speaking newspaper Achyk sayasat («Ачык саясат») was sentenced to one year in prison for slander. The sentencing came on the eve of the referendum on adopting the new Constitution, which already contained a ban on criminal prosecution for the dissemination of information that impugns the honour and injures the dignity of a person.
Organizations such as the Public Foundation “Media Policy Institute” (ОФ «Институт Медиа Полиси») had repeatedly argued that criminal punishment as a form of responsibility for the dissemination of false, insulting information in form of words by journalists was not necessary in a democratic society and that the sanction of imprisonment for slander exceeded the legitimate objective pursued. Furthermore, it was argued that civil law provisions were sufficient to prevent possible abuse of freedom of speech and media.
The now-repealed Art. 127 defined “slander” as the “dissemination of information known to be false that impugns the honour and injures the dignity of another person or damages his/her reputation” or “that is contained in a public statement, publicly performed work or mass media”. An additional form of slander was slander “in connection with an accusation of the commission of a serious or particularly serious offence”. The maximum provided penalty was arrest for a term of three to six months or imprisonment for up to three years.
It should be noted that Kyrgyz legislation does not contain such definitions as “honour”, “dignity” and “business reputation”, as these refer to moral and ethical categories. At the same time, these concepts are recognised as personal non-property rights, which within the meaning of the law are independent objects of judicial protection. The honour and dignity of a citizen of the Kyrgyz Republic are of inestimable value.
In February 2015 the Plenum of the Supreme Court of the Kyrgyz Republic adopted a resolution “On judicial practice in the resolution of disputes on protection of honour, dignity and business reputation” (N 4, dated 13 February 2015), which incorporated the definition of “honour” , “dignity” and “business reputation” . On 30 June 2016 the President of the Republic signed the amendments to the Law “On the Supreme Court of the Kyrgyz Republic and local courts”, which stipulates that all Resolutions of the Plenum of the Supreme Court of the Kyrgyz Republic are binding for the courts of the Kyrgyz Republic .
The next step was to repeal Art. 128 of the Criminal Code on insult. On 6 November 2013, with the decision of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of the Kyrgyz Republic, Art. 128 of the Criminal Code of the Kyrgyz Republic was recognised as inconsistent with Art. 20, Part 4, Par. 6 and Art. 33, Part 5 of the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic, which state that “the prohibition guarantees on criminal prosecution for the dissemination of information that impugns the honour and injures the dignity of a person, established by this Constitution, are not subject to any restrictions” (Art. 20) and “no one may be prosecuted for disseminating information that impugns the honour and injures the dignity of a person” (Art. 33).
The Constitutional Chamber noted that honour and dignity are among the most significant non-property rights and require effective protection, i.e., effective ways and means to defend and protect the honour and dignity of citizens must be provided. The Constitutional Chamber established the need to consider an effective mechanism to protect the honour and dignity of a person by making changes to the Civil Code of the Kyrgyz Republic, including protective measures against insult. Moreover, it was noted actions of defaming and injuring the honour and dignity of citizens that pose no danger to society in terms of content may be regarded as administrative offences .
Despite the fact that this decision was made in 2013, Art. 128 was officially repealed only in 2015 .
Notes and Acknowledgements
Information for Kyrgyzstan was originally collected by IPI as part of a study commissioned by the Office of the Representative on Freedom of the Media of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). It is reprinted here with the permission of the OSCE. Last update: March 2017.
The information contained in this database is for informational and advocacy purposes only. If you are a journalist facing a defamation claim, you should seek legal advice from a qualified attorney. However, if you are unable to find such an attorney, IPI may be able to assist you in doing so. Please contact us at info(at)ipi.media.