DUSHANBE -- Tajikistan's lower chamber of parliament has passed a draft law decriminalizing libel.
The proposed legislation, proposed in March by President Emomali Rahmon, removes libel and insult from the Criminal Code and places it under the bailiwick of administrative law.
That means journalists accused of libel would face an administrative court rather than criminal prosecution. Administrative courts could issue fines for a libel conviction but not a prison sentence.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) welcomed the decision. The OSCE's representative on freedom of the media, Dunja Mijatovic, expressed hope that all remaining criminal provisions related to defamation would eventually be abolished.
The draft law must be approved by the upper chamber of parliament and signed by the president.
Under the existing legal code, Tajik journalists face the possibility of several years in jail for a libel conviction.
The new draft legislation would not alter a criminal law calling for up to five years in prison for those who libel or insult the president.