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Government minister brings criminal defamation charges against journalist

(Globe International/IFEX) - Globe International (GI) is deeply concerned over defamation charges brought against publicist and journalist A. Baatarkhuyag.

Baatarkhuyag has been under investigation for criminal defamation since 8 July 2010, following a complaint by Minister of Nature, Environment and Tourism L. Gansukh. The minister complained that he had been defamed by the following sentences: "Many suffocate from their embezzling" and "Gansukh from Democratic party and Otgonbayar from Revolutionary Party become neighbors in their houses costing million dollars". These statements were contained in an article by Baatarkhuyag entitled "From solidarity to demoralizing", which was published in the 1 March 2010 edition of the daily newspaper "Udriin Sonin".

In his complaint, the minister argued that Baatarkhuyag should be severely punished for defaming him and accusing him of corruption in a nationwide publication.

The first hearing in the case will be held on 11 February 2011.

GI notes that the minister's action is in breach of the Media Freedom Law, Article 3, which bans any kind of censorship and hindering of journalists' media work carried out in compliance with the law. Furthermore, according to Article 139 of the Mongolian Criminal Law, any breach of the Media Freedom Law may be considered a crime.

GI urges the Mongolian authorities to repeal the criminal defamation legislation and calls on politicians and public officials to be more tolerant and open to criticism.

In Mongolia, defamation charges brought against journalists in connection with their articles violate freedom of expression, speech, opinion and the press, as guaranteed by Article 16 of the Constitution, Article 19 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Mongolia ratified in 1974.

GI is concerned about the increase in the number of such actions by politicians and public officials using criminal defamation provisions to strangle the voice of the free media.

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