Uzbekistan

 CountryType of Law 
 
 

Criminal Defamation

The Criminal Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan contains Chapter VI: Offences Against Freedom, Honour and Dignity. Art. 138 defines constituent elements of the offence of defamation and consists of three qualifying paragraphs.

a. Defamation, defined as the dissemination of knowingly false fabrications exposing another person to shame, committed after the imposition of an administrative penalty for a similar act. The penalty is a fine of up to 200 times the minimum wage or correctional labour for up to two years .

b. Defamation by printed or otherwise copied text or by statements in mass media. The penalty is a fine of 200 to 400 times the minimum wage, correctional labour for two to three years or arrest for up to six months .

c. Acts of defamation
• in connection with an accusation of committing a serious or particularly serious offence,
• resulting in grave consequences,
• committed by a dangerous recidivist, and/or
• committed out of mercenary or other base motives.

The penalty in this case is restriction of liberty for one to three years or deprivation of liberty for up to three years .

Art. 140 of the Criminal Code provides the offence of insult and contains three qualifying paragraphs.

a. Insult, defined as the intentional disparagement of another person’s honour or dignity in an obscene manner, committed after the imposition of administrative penalty for a similar act. The penalty is a fine of up to 200 times the minimum wage or correctional labour for up to one year .

b. Insult by printed or otherwise copied text or by statements in mass media. The penalty is a fine of 200 to 400 times the minimum wage or correctional labour for one to two years .

c. Acts of insult
• associated with the victim’s discharge of his/her official or civil duties, and/or
• committed by a dangerous recidivist or a person previously convicted for defamation.

The penalty in this case is a fine of 400 to 600 times the minimum wage, correctional labour for two to three years, or arrest for a period of up to six months .

As noted above, a person can be subject to criminal liability for defamation and insult under the Criminal Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Art. 139–140(1) after the imposition of an administrative penalty for the same act.

Chapter 5 of the Administrative Liability Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan establishes administrative liability for violations infringing the rights and freedoms of citizens. This chapter includes the following:

Defamation (Admin. Liability Code Art. 40): Defamation, defined as the dissemination of knowingly false fabrications exposing another person to shame incurs a fine of 20 to 60 times the minimum wage .

Insult (Admin. Liability Code Art. 41): Insult, defined as the intentional disparagement of another person’s honour or dignity, incurs a fine of 20 to 40 times the minimum wage .

Criminal Defamation of Public Officials

Art. 12 of the Law “On the Status of the Deputy of the Legislative Chamber and Member of the Senate of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan” states:
“Each deputy, senator is guaranteed conditions for unimpeded and effective performance of his/her duties, their rights, honour and dignity are protected. Persons encroaching on deputy’s or senator’s honour and dignity bear administrative, criminal or other liability in accordance with the law. Insult of a deputy, senator likewise defamation against him/her incurs liability provided for by the law[…] .”

A similar instrument for the protection of officials’ reputation is also established for deputies of provincial councils (kengashi) .

There are certain nuances for retraction of information during electoral campaign. They are covered in “Regulation on the Use of Mass Media by Candidates for Deputy, Political Parties, Initiative Groups of Electors during Canvassing within the Framework of Election Campaign for Elections to the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan”.

In accordance with Clause 15 of the aforementioned Regulation, “information which is disseminated in the mass media shall be true and shall not violate the rights and legitimate interests of candidates for deputy, political parties and initiative groups of electors”.

Clause 20 of the Regulation further stipulates that:
“editorial offices of the mass media must refrain from dissemination of false information as well as of information denigrating candidates for deputy’s honour and dignity. Candidates for deputy have the right to demand from the editorial office a retraction of false and denigrating information published in the mass media.

Candidates for deputy whose rights and legitimate interests have been violated with publication have the right to publish a retraction in the mass media concerned. A retraction or reply shall be published under specific heading or on the same page as the material which provoked the reply has been placed. A retraction or reply received by the editorial office of television or radio broadcast shall be broadcast in the same programme or in the same series.

Revision of reasonable and adequate text of the reply is not permitted, unless its volume and time of its broadcasting cause damage to the business of the mass media concerned.
Candidates for deputy have the right to take legal action if the mass media concerned avoids publishing a retraction or reply or disregards the defined deadline for publishing.”

Insult by a subordinate of his superior and insult by a superior of his subordinate (Criminal Code Art. 284): Insult by a subordinate of his superior, and also insult by a superior of his subordinate committed after imposition of disciplinary penalty for a similar action shall be punishable by service restrictions for up to two years or arrest for up to three months.

The Administrative Liability Code also stipulates a number of administrative violations related to the defamation of public servants.

Obstructing police officers in the discharge of their duties (Admin. Liability Code Art. 195): This article covers public calls expressed in any form for defying lawful demands of police officers as well as the dissemination of knowingly false fabrications in order to provoke mass disobedience to police officers. The penalty is a fine of three to five times the minimum wage or administrative detention for up to 15 days.

Defying lawful demands of border troops and obstructing them in their legal actions (Admin. Liability Code Art. 196)1: 2.Obstructing border troops in their legal actions by means of public calls expressed in any form for defying their lawful demands, dissemination of knowingly false fabrications in order to provoke mass disobedience, as well as disobedience to lawful demands of border troops for an end to violations. The penalty of three to five times the minimum wage. Recommitment of violations within one year after the imposition of administrative penalty incurs a fine of five to ten times the minimum wage or administrative detention for up to 15 days .

Additionally, Art. 8 of the Law “On the State Customs Service” also guarantees protection of customs officials’ honour and dignity. It provides: “Defying lawful demands of customs officials, obstructing them in the discharge of their duties, insulting their honour and dignity […] in relation to their discharge of duties incur liability provided for by law .

Criminal Defamation of the Head of State

The Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On the Fundamental Guarantees for the Activities of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan” provides for inviolability of honour and dignity of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

Art. 4 of the aforementioned law (“Ensuring activities of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Material and social welfare”) states that obstructing lawful activity of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan as well as causing damage to the President’s honour and dignity are not permitted and are punishable by law. This provision applies also to ex-President of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Prosecution can be undertaken in accordance with Art. 158 of the Criminal Code.

Insult of the President (Criminal Code Art. 158(3)): Public insult or defamation against the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan as well as insult through the use of press or other mass media shall be punishable by correctional labour for up to two years, arrest for up to six months, restriction of liberty for two to five years, or deprivation of liberty for up to five years .

The previous version of this article in the Criminal Code of 1 April 1995 stipulated punishment of correctional labour for up to three years, arrest for up to six months, or deprivation of liberty for up to five years.

Criminal Defamation of the State and its Symbols

Desecration of state symbols (Criminal Code Art. 215): Desecration of the State Flag, the State Coat of Arms or the State Anthem of the Republic of Uzbekistan or the Republic of Karakalpakstan . The penalty is a fine equal to 25 times the minimum wage, correctional labour for up to three years, or arrest for a period of up to three months.

The objective elements of the offence include only such active actions that are desecratory in nature, i.e., tearing, destroying or damaging the national flag or coat or arms, adding defiling symbols, pictures or texts on the flag or coat of arms; intentionally distorting lyrics or music while singing or playing the anthem, etc. Such actions can be performed explicitly or implicitly. In the latter case it is the consequences that are of public, demonstratively disrespectful nature, and not the actions themselves.

Criminal liability under Art. 215 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan applies not only to citizens of Uzbekistan but also to foreign citizens and persons without citizenship. Uzbek law also provides administrative liability for violating legal provisions concerning state
symbols.

Violation of state symbol legislation (Admin. Liability Code Art. 2031): Violation of the legislation concerning the State Flag, the State Coat of Arms or the State Anthem of the Republic of Uzbekistan or the Republic of Karakalpakstan incurs a fine of up to three times the minimum wage for citizens and a fine equal to three to seven times the minimum wage for officials.

Recommitment of the same violation within one year after the imposition of administrative penalty incurs a fine of three to five times the minimum wage for citizens and a fine equal to seven to 10 times the minimum wage for officials .

Relevant legislation on state symbols:
• Art. 16(2) of the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On the Foundations of Independence for the Republic of Uzbekistan as a State”: State independence symbols of the Republic of Uzbekistan are sacred, and any desecration of them is punishable by law.
• Art. 13 of the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On the State Flag of the Republic of Uzbekistan”: Citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan as well as other persons staying in Uzbekistan are obliged to honour the State Flag of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The persons responsible for violations of the legislation concerning the State Flag of the Republic of Uzbekistan bear liability under procedure established by law.
• Art. 8 of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On the State Coat of Arms of the Republic of Uzbekistan”: Citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan as well as other persons staying in Uzbekistan are obliged to honour the State Coat of Arms of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The persons responsible for violations of the legislation concerning the State Coat of Arms of the Republic of Uzbekistan bear liability under procedure established by law;
• Art. 13 of the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On the State Anthem of the Republic of Uzbekistan”: Citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan as well as other persons staying in Uzbekistan are obliged to honour the State Anthem of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The persons responsible for violations of the legislation concerning the State Anthem of the Republic of Uzbekistan bear liability under procedure established by law.

Criminal Defamation of Foreign Heads of State

No provisions.

Uzbekistan has acceded to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations , which provide for the protection of the dignity of diplomatic agents and consular officers, but the Uzbek Criminal Code does not establish liability for attacks on the honour and dignity of employees of diplomatic and consular services as a separate offence.

Criminal Defamation of Foreign States and Symbols

No provisions.

Criminal Defamation of the Deceased

No provisions.

In accordance with Art. 100(2) of the Civil Code, the honour and dignity of a citizen can be protected by request of interested parties and after his/her death. However, the Criminal Code does not establish liability for defamation of the deceased as a separate offence; the right to protection of honour and dignity of the deceased is mentioned in the Decision of the Supreme Court Plenum of the Republic of Uzbekistan noted below.

Criminal Blasphemy

There are no specific provisions on blasphemy.

However, the offence of incitement to national, racial, ethnic or religious hatred (Criminal Code Art. 156(2) should be noted. The provision in question states:

[…] 2. Deliberate acts injurious to national honour and dignity and denigrating citizen feelings in respect of their religious or atheistic convictions which are perpetrated with a view to arousing hatred, intolerance or grievances against any population group on grounds of national origin, race, ethnic or religious affiliation, as well as the imposition of direct or indirect restrictions of rights or the granting of direct or indirect privileges on grounds of national origin, race or ethnic affiliation, or attitude towards religion – shall be punishable by restriction of liberty for two to five years, or deprivation of liberty for up to five years .

3. If the acts provided for by pars. 1 or 2 of this article.:
a) endanger the lives of others,
b) cause serious bodily injury,
c) involve the eviction of citizens from their homes,
d) are committed by an official ,
e) are committed by a group of individuals acting by prior conspiracy, –
f) the penalty shall be deprivation of liberty for a period of five to ten years.

Criminal Statistics

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Criminal Law and Media

The IPI report noted:

General notes

The following resolution of the Uzbekistan Supreme Court regarding the application of defamation laws (primarily with respect to civil law) should be taken into account.

Resolution of the Supreme Court Plenum of the Republic of Uzbekistan of 19 June 1992

No. 5 “Application by the courts of laws оn protection of the honour, dignity and business reputation of citizens and organizations”

[excerpts]

“[…]The Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On mass media” established prohibition of the use of mass media for interference in citizens’ private life, attacks upon their honour, dignity or business reputation.

Pursuant to Art. 100 of the Civil Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan citizens have the right to petition the courts for a retraction of information damaging to their honour, dignity or business reputation, unless the person who disseminated such information can prove that it is true.

[…]The Plenum decided:
<…>
8. Dissemination of information denigrating honour, dignity or business reputation of a legal entity or natural person should be understood as publishing such information in mass media, presenting it in evaluation reports, public speeches, statements to the officials or communicating a message in other, including spoken, forms to a number of people or at least one person.

Imparting such information only to the person considered cannot be recognised as its dissemination.

The citizen about whom insulting information has been imparted to has the right to take legal action in order to initiate a case against the perpetrator under Art. 139, 140 of the Criminal Code (criminal liability) or under Arts. 40 to 41 of the Administrative Liability Code (administrative liability) for insult or defamation, if there is reasonable foundation for it.

9. It shall be explained to the courts that denigrating information shall be interpreted as information detracting from honour, dignity or business reputation in public opinion or opinion of individual citizens from the perspective of compliance with the law and moral principles accepted by society.

Selected cases

Insult to head of state
There is a lack of judicial practice in cases concerning dissemination of insult or defamation against the President due to the fact that this provision potentially deters journalists from critical statements and serves as another instrument of self-censorship instrument. The mere existence of such provisions leads to the fact that public criticism of high officials and authorities of the state de-facto is recognised as a “forbidden subject”.

However, the following practice of the prosecution of a photographer (documentary filmmaker) and journalists for ‘defamation against the people’ can be taken as representative:

In 2009/2010, several journalists and a documentary filmmaker, Umida Akhmedova, were found guilty under Arts. 139 and 140 of the Criminal Code for insult and defamation against the people of Uzbekistan, but were granted amnesty by the court.

In September 2010, Abdumalik Bobayev, a correspondent of the Voice of America Uzbek-language service was accused of insult and defamation against the people of Uzbekistan, preparation of materials that endanger public security and illegal border crossing. According to the conclusion of the expert evaluation, materials prepared by the journalist and broadcast allegedly contained information that undermines the international image of Uzbekistan and “can distract the attention of the people of Uzbekistan, shatter good neighbourliness among citizens, arouse distrust in authorities and law enforcement agencies, […] spread panic among people and lead to violations by citizens”.

On 15 October 2010, the court declared the journalist guilty and sentenced her to a substantial fine.

Another example of prosecution for “insult” and “defamation” in Uzbekistan is the case of Russian journalist Vladimir Berezovsky, Parlamentskaya Gazeta’s resident correspondent in countries of Central Asia and editor of Vesti.uz website. Between 1 August and 24 November 2009, the website republished a number of communications by Russian news agencies, e.g., Interfax, Russian News Agency TASS, RIA Novosti, Regnum News Agency, Rosbalt, Ferghana.Ru.

As in the case of Umida Akhmedova, the accusation against Berezovksy is based on a report by the Monitoring Centre for Mass Communications under the Communications and Information Agency of Uzbekistan. Among dozens of thousands publications on the website employees of this institution identified 16 seditious pieces of news which “can inflame national and interstate enmity, spread panic among people”.

As a result, Berezovsky is charged with defamation and insult under Arts. 139 and 140 of the Uzbek Criminal Code.

Representatives nuances from these cases that should be noted:

• In the case of Umida Akhmedova, the object of offence initially was defined as the “Uzbek people”, even though the Criminal Code of Uzbekistan does not contain such an offence.

• In the case of Berezovsky, the prosecution could not actually define who the victim was. The indictment against him states that the website “was disseminating slanderous (misleading etc.) information” and that the journalist “has committed a crime against freedom, honour and dignity”, but does not mention with respect to whom. In the report by the Monitoring Centre there is no a single word mentioned about insult to anybody, nevertheless Berezovsky was accused of it.

The criminal case does not contain any statements by victims. There is neither proof of the fact of defamation or insult, nor retractions of pieces of news published on the website. Berezovsky has been charged with defamation against the Uzbek people, incitement of national and interstate hatred for publication of news items by Russian News Agency TASS, Interfax, Regnum News Agency, Rosbalt, Russian online-media “Stoletiye”, news agency of the Fund “Russky mir”. Information sources, hence the sources of “defamation and insult to the Uzbek people”, were officials of the Russian Federation.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation and the Centre for Journalism in Extreme Situations expressed negative views towards the prosecution of the Berezovsky and pointed to the unlawfulness of criminal proceedings initiation due to lack of corpus delicti .

Recent Legal Changes

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Notes and Acknowledgements

Information for Uzbekistan 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.

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