In Kazakhstani courts, high-profile cases periodically arise where one person accuses another of slander. And often, the courts issue guilty verdicts, resulting in the convicted having to pay huge fines, and sometimes even going to prison. Many are shocked by this. But there’s no need to be surprised. That’s our law. You can go to jail for words. By and large, I believe that criminal punishment for slander should be excluded from the criminal code altogether. But since the law still operates, let’s learn how to use it correctly.

What is slander? The Criminal Code interprets it as the dissemination of knowingly false information that defames the honor and dignity of another person or undermines their reputation. The key word here, in my opinion, is “information.”

Therefore, first of all, we need to learn to distinguish between information and opinion. Information is data about a fact, that is, about a real event or phenomenon that occurred. Opinion is a subjective judgment expressing an assessment of something, an attitude towards something, or a view of something. This is where the whole essence lies.

For example, when someone, guided by their inner convictions and conclusions, publicly says that a certain mayor or minister is a thief and a bribe-taker, this is a statement about a fact, that is, about a real event. And since theft and bribery are punishable offenses, such things cannot be said unless there is official confirmation. In our country, the only official confirmation of the fact of theft and bribery is a valid court verdict. For such a statement, one can indeed end up behind bars.

Moreover, even if you know for sure that a person has committed a crime, for example, raped a girl, but she did not preserve or document the evidence, then verbal accusations of rape can be considered slander against him, and then the one who goes to jail may not be the rapist, but the justice seeker.

This is how the law works.

On the other hand, there’s opinion. You can have a very negative opinion about someone, for example, consider a certain official lazy, arrogant, stupid, cowardly, etc. All these words characterize only the qualities of the person and are not facts. Your subjective opinion is expressed in them. It does not require evidence in court. You can only confirm them with your observations, or you may not confirm them. Others may agree or disagree with you. All these discussions do not entail any legal consequences. Except perhaps under the article “Insult,” which has very vague definitions. But at least you won’t be sent to prison under it. At most – a fine of 200 MRP or 180 hours of community service.

So boldly express your opinion, and share your impressions, but do not state facts that you cannot prove.

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