Militia vs. human rights protectors
The Kherson Regional Department of the Ministry of Interior brought a suit against Alla Tiutiunnik, the head of the Kherson regional fund of charity and health and a member of the board of the Ukrainian Helsinki Union of human rights, and against the social-political independent weekly “Vgoru”, published by human rights protectors, on the protection of business reputation, refutation of untrue information and compensation of moral damage.
The writ reads that on 6 January of the current year the weekly “Vgoru” published, on the first page, Alla Tiutiunniks article “Militia together with people?”. The militiamen affirm that there is some information in the article, which is not true and should be refuted. The article contains the information about the illegal actions of Kherson law-enforcers during the election campaign of 2004: persecution of agitators, attacks on them, issuing of the illegal orders, destruction of agitation materials in support of candidate to Presidents post Viktor Yushchenko, “the case with KAMAZ”, etc.
Consideration of the claim has not been appointed yet, but it is interesting that the militiamen paid only 17 hryvnas as litigation fee, although they demanded to pay them the compensation of moral damage equal to 5 thousand hryvnas. This contradicts the Ukrainian law, which envisages much greater sum of litigation fee (when such sum is demanded, the fee should be 250 hryvnas). Well, frequently law-enforcers do not obey laws…
Olena Volochay, a member of the public organization “For professional aid”, explained that the claimants should recollect that item 11 of the Supreme Council Resolution, which is quoted by the claimant reads: “critical assessment of certain facts of drawbacks, ideas and opinions, critical reviews, may not be reasons for satisfaction of the demands on compensation of moral (non-property) damage. However, if an insult or violation of other individuals rights protected by law (divulgation of confidential information without individuals consent, meddling into private life, etc.) is committed, then it can entail compensation of moral damage”.
It is also noteworthy that Article 17 of the Law of Ukraine “On state support of mass media and social protection of journalists” envisages certain peculiarities of responsibility for inflicted moral (non-property) damage:
“In the course of consideration of disputes about compensation of moral (non-property) damage at the suits of the organs of state power, local self-government, official persons (for instance, a registered candidate to deputies) or state officials against mass media, the courts should take into account that, according to the matter of part 4 Article 17 of the mentioned Law, the presence of malicious intent of journalists should be considered, as well as consequences of use by the victim of the opportunity of extrajudicial (pre-trial) refutation of untrue information, assertion of his/her honor and dignity and settling of the conflict as a whole”.
In the opinion of Volodymir Yavorskiy, the chief executive of the Ukrainian Helsinki union of human rights, the claim against Alla Tiutiunnik is nothing but an attempt of pressure upon the journalist-human rights protector for disclosure of criminal actions of law-enforcers.
Thus, taking account of the existing legal norms, satisfaction of this suit is rather doubtful. Of course, the court should put an end to this case and issue the decision in accordance with the proofs presented by the sides and in accordance with Ukrainian laws. The court should do it; otherwise this claim would continue the practice of restriction of journalists right for realization of their legal professional activities and would initiate the practice of persecution of human rights protectors.
21 January 2005