Freedom of speech as it is
Just think! For one year not a single printing edition has been registered in Ukraine.
In April 1999 our human rights protection union ‘Anti-mafia sent to the Ministry of Information the proper documents for the registration of our newspaper. According to the law, our application had to be considered within one month.
By the end of the month we got an answer: owing to a reorganization of the ministry to a state committee the consideration of our application is postpponed.
How do you think, how long must take the process of reorganization? Who knows. During four months we got no answer. In August 1999 we sent our application again, this time to the corresponding state committee. In a month we got another answer: the reorganization is proceeding. Now we have March 2000. We have not got any answer yet.
In the committee they cynically hinted to us that the reorganization had been started on purpose, in order not to multiply wild printing editions — at first due to the election of the President, then to a threat of pre-term election of the Supreme Rada.
This is the freedom of speech in Ukrainian manner. There is another aspect of the problem. Article 8 of the law of Ukraine ‘On printed mass media (press) in Ukraine gives the right to publish a newspaper to a physical person, a citizen of Ukraine. When we tried to do it, (a year ago in the former ministry), they answered: do not think about it, and added, grinning: you may go to court.
Until now people argue whether the election of the President was fair. This discussion is hopeless. It is sufficient to control all the existing mass media and not register any new ones due to a reorganization. Man in the street will believe everything which is printed in newspapers: we are conditioned so.
Commentary of the Kharkiv Group for human rights protection. It is difficult not to agree with the indignation of the author. Really, the story of the reorganization of the state organs, which must register mass media, does not hold water. Moreover, refusing the registration since the declarant is a physical, not a juridical person, is really a violation of Article 8 of the law ‘On printed mass media (press) in Ukraine. This is also a violation of Articles 10 and 14 of the European Convention of human rights and basic freedoms. I would advise to take the challenge and go to court and, finally (if you will not get a positive solution in Ukraine) go to the Strasbourg court.
There are many subterfuges. Our group had the same problems complicated by the absence in out statute of the clause that we intend publishing activities. When we turned with an application to register our new journal ‘Freedom of speech and privacy (FSP) to the Committee on information of the Kharkov oblast administration, we got a refuse because of the absence of this phrase in our statute. We asked how it could happen that the registration of ‘Prava ludyny was permitted, and got an answer that it was a mistake. Then we published two issues of FSP as supplements to ‘Prava ludyny and got a stern warning that we have violated the law since supplements must be registered separately. Then we changed out statute, introducing the above-mentioned phrase and got the same answer, as Miloslavskiy, that registrations are suspended because of reorganization. Then we registered FSP as a regional publication and we continue to print it as a regional material. When and if the reorganization is finished, we hope to reregister it as an all-Ukrainian magazine.
I believe that the main reason why independent mass media are absent is their economic dependence either on the state or on the founders, who usually have a quite definite political orientation. As to the complexities with registration, they, by hook or crook, can be overcome.