Defamation Laws In Belarus
Criminal Defamation Statutes In Belarus
Belarus’ criminal defamation laws are still widely used, particularly to provide special protection to the president. The law provides harsh sanctions, which include imprisonment and forced labor. Severe economic penalties are often disproportionate to the damage caused. Defamation of the president can result up to 5 years imprisonment, while the max prison sentences for defamation and/or insult of ordinary citizens is two years.
Civil Defamation Statutes In Belarus
Article 5 of the Civil Code prohibits publication of information damaging the honor or dignity of the president and other high ranking officials; this statute also can lead to closure of a media outlet that accumulates two or more “defamation warnings.”
Civil defamation cases in Belarus are more common since there is no need to prove falsehood of the impugned statement, or malicious intent in its dissemination.
Media Libel In Belarus
Articles 367, 368 and 369 of the Belarusian legal code, which governs defamation, are considered contrary to international standards of freedom of expression set forth in the landmark decision of Lingens vs. Austria. In Lingens v. Austria, officials ruled that a politician who “inevitably and knowingly” opens himself to scrutiny by journalists and the public must be prepared to accept harsh criticism.