Krivoy Rog town council does not want to recognize journalists Valentina Krivda and Natalya Sokurenko
7 August 2003. The IMI got the appeal from the Initiative Group of independent journalists of Krivoy Rog, who complained against the illegal actions of local authorities. According to the words of journalists Valentina Krivda and Natalya Sokurenko, they are not admitted to the sessions of the town council and have no real access to documents. “This is a direct impediment to the professional activities of journalists”, the appeal reads. Three journalists handed the claims to the town prosecutors office about the institution of criminal cases in the accordance with Article 171 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine after the fact that on 9 July 2003 they had not been admitted to the session of the Krivoy Rog town council.
Mykola Korobko, Krivoy Rog:
The Krivoy Rog town authorities began the reluctant and muddled retreat before the unexpectedly massive public support of the demands presented by journalist Valentina Krivda. The initiator of this just indignation stubbornly strives for the cancellation of Article 13 of the Regulations on the work of the town council and for the free access to the sessions of the town council for the representatives of mass media independently of their political orientation and their proximity to the power. Valentina Krivda, being a victim of such discrimination of journalists, during five months turned to all agencies connected with the work of mass media. This campaign attracted the attention of public to the case.
More than ten publications appeared in local mass media, bulletin “Prava ludyny” published by the Kharkov group for human rights protection also commented on this case, the collection of signatures began under the motto “Render the freedom of speech to Krivoy Rog!”
Almost 500 signatures of Krivoy Rog dwellers were presented to town mayor Yuri Lubonenko. The responses of various officials to the informational requests of V. Krivda confirmed the groundlessness of the attempts of the town power to prevent her presence at the sessions of the town council.
Besides, in the beginning of June of the current year O. Kovalkova, a deputy of the head of the Dnepropetrovsk oblast directorate of justice, communicated the following (letter No. 04-5/1840 of 1 July 2003): “After the juridical analysis of the above-mentioned laws and other operating normative-legal acts, which concern your question, we came to the conclusion that there existed no operating normative-legal acts containing the norm, according to which any physical or juridical person had the authority “to establish the necessity of the presence of the representatives of state organs, district councils, political parties, other public organizations, labor collectives, press and TV at the sittings of the town council or permanently working commissions…””
Yet, the Regulations on the work of the town council are just the act, which prevents the appearance of independent journalists in the session hall!
So, under the pressure of the irrefutable proofs of the absence of any legal grounds for ousting the journalists from the important social mission, the town power began to manipulate with the accreditation of journalist V. Krivda. Despite the numerous attempts of the all-Ukrainian weekly “Shliakh Peremogi” to achieve the accreditation of its correspondent, V. Petrovnin, the executive officer of the executive committee, continues to “explain” that “the accreditation of a journalist in the organs of local self-rule is realized on the basis of the official appeal handed by the mass medium to the corresponding organ or on the basis of the appeal of the journalist, who must present the proper documents confirming their professional status or the recommendations of the professional journalists union” (V. Petrovnins words). Then V. Petrovnin continued the demonstration of his “legal knowledge”. He pointed out: “Your letter reads about the accreditation of your freelance worker V. Krivda, but not a journalist”. In this connection M. Makar, the manager of the company “Ukrainska Vydavnicha Spilka” (“Ukrainian Union of Publishers”), the founder of the weekly, had to turn to the executive committee of the Krivoy Rog town council, which, without the open participation of the mayor, inflexibly defends the non-transparency of the work of the council. The motives and arguments quoted in the appeal are worthy of note: “… The official response (outgoing No. 7/31-1528 of 25 July 2003) of V. Petrovnin, the executive officer of the executive committee, motivates the refusal in the accreditation of our freelance correspondent by the absence of the confirmation of her professional status. At that, the official interprets the above-mentioned law incorrectly and distorts the provisions of this law”.
We want to remind that the Law reads: “… on the basis of the official appeal handed by the mass medium” OR “… on the basis of the appeal of the journalist with the confirmation of his professional status”. So, these two kinds of the appeals on accreditation are not connected with each other, and a mass medium has the right to accredit in the organs of local self-rule any worker of this media, even a freelance one. Besides, V. Petrovnins demonstrates his dense incompetence considering the concepts “correspondent” and “journalist” to be absolutely different and stating that the Law concerns only the latter ones… So, taking into account the above-mentioned arguments, we are forced to regard the unmotivated refusal in the accreditation of our correspondent V. Krivda as a brutal violation of the Law of Ukraine “On the procedure of elucidation of the activities of the organs of state power and organs of local self-rule in Ukraine by mass media” and impediment to the professional activities of the journalist and mass media by the officials of the organ of state power, in particular, by executive officer V. Petrovnin”.
However, only several journalists were invited by the officials to the July session of the town council (the third one after the beginning of the protest campaign): representatives of the newspaper “Chervony girnyk” (the organ of the town council), municipal TV and radio company “Rudana” and state TV and radio company “Krivorizhzhia”. Valentina Krivda, a correspondent of the all-Ukrainian weekly “Shliakh Peremogi”, Olena Kostadinova, a deputy of the editor-in-chief of the civil-political newspaper “Pravo”, and Natalya Sokurenko, the editor-in-chief of the oblast independent social-political newspaper “Tochka zreniya” and the assistant-consultant of MP Grigoriy Omelchenko, the head of the deputies union “Antimafia”, were not admitted to the session.
The reaction of the prosecutors office to the facts of the impediment to the professional activities of journalists was aimed at the support of the illegal actions of the power and must be investigated additionally. Ivan Chizh, the head of the State committee in charge of TV and radio broadcasting, confirmed in his letter of 1 August 2003 the propriety of V. Krivdas demands and expressed the gratitude “for the allegiance to principles in the fulfillment of journalists professional duties”. Mykola Tomenko, the head of the Supreme Rada Committee in charge of the freedom of speech and information, directed the letter of 11 July 2003 to the Krivoy Rog town council and to the journalists of the editions “Tochka zreniya”, “Shliakh Peremogi” and “Pravo”. In this letter he refers to the proper laws and reminds that “The accreditation is given according to the administrative procedure, so the provisions on accreditation, issued by the corresponding power organs, must not introduce any grounds for the refusal in accreditation to the journalists, who presented the needed documents (underlined by M. Tomenko). The journalists must be accredited. It should be noted that the Law does not envisage any limitations of the number of journalists, who may get the accreditation”.
Finally, after several fruitless checks conducted by the demand of V. Krivda, even the prosecutors office understood what was the matter of the case. In the letter of 13 June 2003 Krivoy Rog prosecutor V. Kravets, a juridical counselor of the 3rd class, wrote that the subject of V. Krivdas complaint – the Regulations on the work of the Krivoy Rog town council – agreed with the operating laws. However, two months later the prosecutors office had to change its opinion. The above-mentioned letter reads: “According to the Regulations on the work of the Krivoy Rog town council, representatives of state organs, district councils, political parties, other public organizations, labor collectives, printed mass media and TV are invited to the sittings of the town council only if necessary. The transparency of the work of the town council is provided by the way of elucidation by TV, radio, printed mass media, in particular, the informational organs of the Krivoy Rog town council and executive committee: the town newspaper “Chervony girnyk” and the TV and radio company “Rudana”. The check did not uncover any brutal violations (maybe the prosecutors office does not deal with not-brutal violations? – Authors note) of the laws concerning your right for obtaining the information about the work of the sessions of the town council; so, there no grounds for taking some measures”. The letter of the prosecutors office of 22 August 2003 signed by the acting prosecutor of Krivoy Rog runs: “According to the results of the check, Article 13 of the Regulations on the work of the town council contradicts to the norms of the operating laws. On the recommendations of the Krivoy Rog prosecutors office, Article 13 of the Regulations will be brought to accordance with the legal norms. Besides, the working deputies group was created at the Krivoy Rog town council. The group prepared the propositions on the procedure of the accreditation of representatives of mass media in the town council and the Regulations on the procedure of elucidating the work of the town council and its executive organs. The mentioned documents will be presented for the consideration to the deputies of the town council in August 2003”. The last paragraph of the letter promises another iteration of the exhaustive red tape, since the town authorities will do their best to dodge from the transparency, one of the main principles, on which, according to the Law of Ukraine “On local self-rule in Ukraine”, the local self-rule is based. We are sure that the drafts of the changes, which are inaccessible for the public, will be directed towards the preservation of the opacity of the existing local normative base connected with the accreditation of journalists.
(“Prava ludyny” (English version), August 2003)