Mykola Tomenko: five questions about the freedom of speech to President Leonid Kuchma – the open letter


Respected President Kuchma!

Your attitude to the freedom of speech in Ukraine is known. It is determined laconically and exactly in the book “Ukraine is not Russia”: “Nothing can make me to encroach on the freedom of the press”.

However, lately the heads of mass media and journalists turn, more and more frequently, to the Supreme Rada committee in charge of the freedom of speech and information with the complaints against the actions of the Presidential Administration and Yanukovich’s government. The main reason of the resentment is that the Administration and government are meddling into the activities of mass media referring to your decisions.

In this connection many experts and journalists again began to call you “enemy of the press No. 1 in Ukraine”. In order to disprove this opinion, I ask you to answer the following five questions about the present attitude of the Ukrainian President to the problems of mass media in our country.

I want to point out that your position is very important not only for me, as the head of the Supreme Rada committee in charge of the freedom of speech and information, but also for journalists and common Ukrainian citizens.

Did you really prohibit to the First national TV channel the direct broadcasting of the Parliamentary debates with participation of the opposition? Is it true that you control personally the quantity of positive mentions by mass media of Oleksandr Moroz, Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Timoshenko? Is it true that you make the administration of the TV channel “1+1” to transmit the feature “Prote”, which you consider to be the most objective TV feature?

Do you begin your workday from reading the materials of the so-called “analytical” Internet editions notorious for publication of openly cynical and false information about the activities of the opposition? (On 26 November 2003 some Ukrainian TV channels showed the reportage about your working day in the hospital “Feofaniya”, and these materials were on your table). I do not know whether you get all information from these editions or read other mass media too. Yet, by words of the workers of Presidential Administration, just the reading of such “analytical” Internet editions inspires you to your service activities.

Did you actually prohibit to the members of the National Council of Ukraine in charge of TV and radio broadcasting to vote for deprivation of licenses of the TV organizations, which committed the violations of the laws of Ukraine, in particular, showed the advertising of alcoholic drinks in the daytime, demonstrated films without the permission of the Ministry of Culture and retransmitted the features prohibited in the civilized countries; of the FM-radio stations that broadcasted the “criminal” songs popularizing violence and cruelty?

Did you order the Tax Administration of Ukraine not to check the mass media, loyal to you, which concealed their profits from publication of advertisements, but to check the mass media that criticized you?

I ask you to answer personally, but not through V. Medvedchuk, the head of the Presidential Administration, as you did before, since, as I have already written, the position of Leonid Kuchma, the guarantor of the Constitution, is very important for the entire Ukrainian people.

Sincerely yours, Mykola Tomenko, the head of the Supreme Rada committee in charge of the freedom of speech and information

(1 December 2003, “Ukrainska pravda”, )

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