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Law on journalists' protection meets standards, but needs improvement

Media Policy Institute analyzed the laws on the mass media and on protection of professional activities of journalists in Kyrgyzstan.

The analysis was made within the framework of the inventory of legislation. It covered 359 documents.

Human rights activists remind that the UN Human Rights Committee establishes that «the exclusive privilege of journalists not to disclose sources of information is an integral element of the right to freedom of expression, and it is necessary to ensure its observance.»

They also cite the recommendations of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, but with the proviso that they are not binding on Kyrgyzstan. Meanwhile, they should be considered as an important standard set by a credible organization.

The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers says that sources of information should not be disclosed unless «there is a reasonable alternative to disclosure, or those alternative measures have already been exhausted by officials or government agencies seeking disclosure,» and «the legitimate interest in disclosure definitely outweighs the public interest in non-disclosure , bearing in mind that the primary need for disclosure has been proven, the circumstances are of a rather important and serious nature, the need for disclosure is dictated by social needs.»

Any disclosure of confidentiality of sources of journalistic information is allowed only on the basis of a court decision and only if such actions are necessary «to protect the overriding public interest or citizen’s rights that cannot be protected in any other way.»

The law on the protection of journalists allows seizure and examination of materials and documents obtained in the course of a journalistic investigation in court. In general, the document, as the Media Policy Institute stressed, meets the requirements of the time, international norms.

Meanwhile, human rights activists believe that it is necessary to establish criminal liability as a separate corpus delicti for censorship after possible amendments to the law of the Kyrgyz Republic on mass media in the interpretation in which it will be established in the law on mass media.

They also believe that it is necessary to provide for administrative liability for obstructing professional journalistic activities, which should be understood as the commission of actions aimed at hindering the work of journalists that do not constitute a criminal offense, or to supplement the Code of Misconduct in the current version with new offenses, such as, for example, for collecting information (coverage of rallies, marches), and not just for dissemination.

This expands the range of subjects of the offense.

Experts recommend providing for the inadmissibility of deprivation of accreditation of journalists for the content of the material by state and other institutions and to include the possibility of using hidden audiovisual equipment in the list of journalists’ rights.