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OSCE Media Representative Welcomes Kazakh Move To Decriminalize Libel

Harlem Desir, the OSCE representative on freedom of the media.
Harlem Desir, the OSCE representative on freedom of the media.

The OSCE representative on freedom of the media, Harlem Desir, has welcomed a May 6 decision by the lower house of Kazakhstan’s parliament to decriminalize defamation, calling it an “important step forward.”

In a statement on May 7, Desir urged the Kazakh authorities to “move further and repeal” a number of articles in the Criminal Code that he says “may still stifle freedom of expression.”

He singles out two articles on “Insult” and “Distribution Of Deliberately False Information,” as well as other articles protecting the honor and dignity of Kazakhstan’s first president, Nursultan Nazarbaev; his successor, Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev; parliamentarians; and other officials.

“Too many journalists have been criminally prosecuted or investigated, or have fallen victim to heavy fines, simply for performing their duty of informing citizens,” Desir said in his statement.

Journalists “must be able to pursue their work without fear of criminal reprisal,” he added.

Kazakhstan is ranked 157th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’s World Press Freedom Index.