Courts rule on the merits in seven cases under "journalist articles" in half of the year – the IMI
Seven rulings on the merits in cases related to violations of journalists' rights were found in the Unified State Register of Court Rulings between May 25 and December 4, 2023, according to the IMI article "Dangerous trends in the criminal judicial practice regarding the protection of journalists' work: a review by the IMI."
The article discusses rulings under Articles 171, 345-1, 347-1, 348-1, 349-1 and Part 2 of Art. 163 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.
Two of the seven rulings were acquittals and the other five convictions. The Supreme Court also upheld the penalty assigned to a convict under Art. 345-1 of the Criminal Code, but in this case their guilt was not in question: the victim's party filed a cassation appeal as they thought that the chosen penalty was too mild, but the Supreme Court rejected it.
At the same time, one verdict and one ruling by a court of appeal incriminated the defendant under two "journalistic" articles at the same time: Articles 171 and 345-1 of the Criminal Code (the appeal confirmed the person's acquittal under both articles, and the first instance court convicted another person under the same articles). As for other rulings, the court of appeal upheld the conviction of a person under Art. 171 by the first instance court, which made the judgement this year; in two cases, first instance courts convicted persons under Art. 345-1 of the Criminal Code (in one of these cases, a plea agreement was approved); in one more case, the first instance court acquitted the defendant tried under Art. 345-1; and in another one, the first instance court convicted the accused person under Art. 171 of the Criminal Code. No judgements under Articles 347-1, 348-1, 349-1 and Part 2 of Art. 163 of the Criminal Code have been recorded in the period under study.
The author of the article, Roman Holovenko, notes: "One of the first instance rulings acquitted the person because the court did not consider the injured cameraperson to be a journalist. This is not consistent with the note to Art. 345-1 of the Criminal Code, which defines what is a journalistic actvity, and this is an alarming case. We will try to track whether this acquittal will be challenged in the court of appeal, and if so, whether that court will assess the relationship between the concepts of 'journalist' and 'cameraperson' differently."
The lawyer also added that the number of tried criminal cases under these articles reached or slightly exceeded the 2021 level, since last year there was a "slump" as their number went down by almost a half, which could have been caused by Russia's invasion.
It will be recalled that in the first half of 2023, first instance courts passed six judgments in cases related to violations of journalists' rights, as well as two judgments of appeal courts. Of those, five rulings related to actions under Art. 171 of the Criminal Code and three rulings were classified under Art. 345-1 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.
In 10 months of 2022 (January–October), the courts passed five rulings regarding violations of journalists' rights. Of them, two verdicts were related to Article 345-1 of the Criminal Code and three to Article 171 of the CCU. Furthermore, the courts issued one ruling in an appeal procedure and one verdict in a cassation procedure under Article 345-1 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine; one judgment under Article 171 of the Criminal Code was reviewed in the appeal procedure and three more judgments were reviewed together with the appeal rulings in the cassation procedure. No judgements under Articles 347-1, 348-1 and 349-1 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, were passed.
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