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Decriminalization of slander: the best solution

At the end of 2019, the head of state announced the forthcoming decriminalization of slander in Kazakhstan. The existence of criminal liability for defamation and moreover, its application in practice, is a kind of marker for the assessment of the level of freedom of speech in any state. Since 2015 despite the efforts of NGOs, media and international organizations criminal liability for defamation remains in the Criminal Code in Kazakhstan. In addition, criminal liability has been more tightened.

Another problem associated with the criminalization of defamation in Kazakhstan is that it is not only a crime and criminal liability “on paper”, but, as monitoring has shown, cases of defamation and insult have been actively instituted, investigated and brought to trial. This is essentially a decisive factor in favor of the fact that the problem requires speedy resolution.

Unfortunately, Kazakhstan has a mixed policy. On the one hand, the Anti-Corruption Agency encourages reports of corruption, and the Parliament criminalized bribery; on the other hand, the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan provides for severe liability for defamation. In the realities of corruption, tribalism and criminal conspiracy, slander as a criminal offense only limit the activities of journalists and activists. Thus, it becomes more difficult to prove the fact of corruption.

The Legal Policy Research Center comprehensively examined the issue of decriminalization of libel in Kazakhstan, examining defamation disputes in international law and the preconditions for decriminalizing libel in Kazakhstan. We examined legal statistics and judicial practice, obligations and anti-corruption reforms, threats to journalism and the everyday level of accusations, influencers and bloggers, as well as the integrity of the public sector.

The decision to decriminalize article 130 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan and transfer it to the Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan on Administrative Offenses, adopted by the head of state at the end of 2019, on the one hand, solves long-standing problems, such as the implementation of the recommendations of the Convention bodies, but on the other hand raises new questions. We have developed recommendations for decriminalizing slander in Kazakhstan. Please see the link for details

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