Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych [official website, in Ukrainian] on Tuesday praised [press release, in Ukrainian] the rejection of a proposed law that would have established harsh penalties for reporters who spread libel. The bill, which passed on its first reading, would have established fines and other punishments, including prison and correctional labor sentences, for spreading false information about another person. After being heavily protested [Kyiv Post report] by Ukrainian journalists and criticized by the international community, the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament, voted to rescind [Kyiv Post report] the bill by a wide margin. Yanukovych emphasized [Kyiv Post report] the importance of protecting the freedom of expression and taking public opinion into account when passing legislation, especially leading up to an election.
The law drew criticism [JURIST report] from a media watchdog last month. Ukraine has also sparked other concerns leading up to their elections. Last week, Europe's human rights overseer urged [JURIST report] open and honest elections in Ukraine. In the same statement, he condemned the ongoing imprisonment of former prime minister and opposition party leader Yulia Tymoshenko [personal website; JURIST news archive] whose final appeal was denied [JURIST report] by Ukraine's highest court last month. During the appeal the government denied allegations that the criminal proceedings against Tymoshenko were a measure initiated by Yanukovych to prevent her from participating in the October elections.