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Publicist and his wife ordered to pay compensation to minister for defamation

(Globe International/IFEX) - 17 November 2011 - Globe International is concerned about criminal defamation charges brought against publicist Baatarkhuyag and his wife Uyanga, a member of the People's Movement.

On 15 November 2011, the couple was found guilty of "insulting the reputation" of the Minister of Nature, Environment and Tourism, Mr. L. Gansukh. The Sukhbaatar District Court convicted them under Article 111/2 of the Mongolian Criminal Code. Globe International had sent a letter to the minister on 6 February, expressing concern over the criminal defamation charges.

Baatarkhuyag was ordered to pay damages in the amount of approx. US$4,600 - 55 times higher than the minimum wage. The decision stems from an article entitled "From solidarity to demoralizing" Baatarkhuyag wrote in the 1 March 2010 edition of the daily "Udriin Sonin" (Daily News). The article contained the comments "Many suffocate from their embezzling" and "Gansukh from Democratic party and Otgonbayar from Revolutionary Party becoming neighbors in houses costing million dollars each". The minister subsequently filed criminal defamation charges against the publicist at the Sukhbaatar District Court.

Uyanga was also sentenced to pay compensation 51 times higher than the minimum wage (approx. US$4,300) to the minister. She was under investigation following a complaint made by Minister Gansukh that he had been defamed following her speech during a People's Movement's demonstration last spring, when she reportedly commented that, "Minister Gansukh has been living in a house costing million dollars after signing the Oyutolgoi agreement." Gansukh filed criminal defamation charges against her at the Bayangol District Court.

Uyanga is a member of the People's Movement that is trying to force the Parliament and Government to fulfill a number of promises made to the people.

After reviewing their cases, the Courts decided to merge both cases because the couple was seen as having purposely formed a group to defame the minister's reputation.

"We had enough evidence to defend ourselves. But the court sentenced us. As a result of the court decision we now have a criminal record. So, I cannot be nominated as a candidate in parliamentary elections. I believe the court's decision was political. We will appeal," Uyanga said.

Globe International considers the court decision a breach of the Mongolian Constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression, opinion and information, and a violation of the Media Freedom Law, which bans any kind of censorship and hindering of journalists' media work that complies with the law.

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