Review of the observance of human rights, connected with election process, in the Chernigiv oblast in May 2004
With this digest the Chernigiv public committee of human rights protection starts the monthly preparation and publication of the materials on the observance of human rights, connected with the election process, in the Chernigiv oblast. These materials will be prepared in the framework of monitoring of the observance of human rights during the election of the President of Ukraine in the course of realization of the project “Active protection of election rights-2004” financially supported by the Swiss Foundation for Development and Cooperation.
The pre-election process in Ukraine has not begun yet, but the political events, connected with the election, are intensifying, especially in the regions. All this has an effect on the social and political life in the Chernigiv oblast, which directly influences the observance and protection of human rights and freedoms. The situation in the oblast is uncommon, since a year ago the intermediate election to the Supreme Rada of Ukraine in the 206th single-member constituency was conducted in the region, which election determined certain preferences for the nearest future. First of all, the conflicts that accompanied election-2003 are not settled yet – the series of court processes connected with this election and its subjects are lasting until now. Yet, there are some new tendencies in the sphere of human rights, which are connected with the election process.
EDUCATION ON THE QUESTIONS OF THE PROTECTION OF THE RIGHT FOR FREE ELECTION, THE FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION OF WILL AND OTHER CIVIL RIGHTS
On which directions of preparation to the future election race the subjects of the election process already show certain activity? First of all, this concerns the educational activities of the political parties and blocs that plan to delegate their representatives for the work in district election commissions.
In May we mainly fixed such activity of opposition movements. For example, on 15-16 May the educational seminars for the future members of election commissions from the Ukrainian Peoples Party (UPP) were conducted in Chernigiv. The main purpose of these seminars was the familiarization with general features of the Law of Ukraine “On election of the President of Ukraine”. The future subjects of the election process got the basic skills in the fulfillment and realization of their rights and duties in the course of election process. Similar seminars were held by this political force during the same month in the regions of the oblast. Before this the UPP organized the seminar “Technologies of activation of voters”.
In May 2004 the party “Batkivshchina” started the education of the candidates to the members of district election commissions from this party; the special attention was focused on the rights and duties of the subjects of the election process.
According to the information, obtained by our committee, all these actions were connected with the aspects of new electoral legislation. However, the emphasis was not placed on separate rights of voters in the context of the Constitution of Ukraine and international legislation, which evidences about somewhat narrow specialization of these actions.
By the data, which were given to us by other parties and movements, and by the materials of the press, other political forces did not conduct any actions of this kind.
We reckon that such activities of the political forces will be intensified in future, since the education on the questions of protection of the freedoms of choice and other civil rights, in particular, the rights of the observers and future members of district commissions, will become one of the main directions of the activities of regional headquarters of the candidates to Presidents post. This can be predicted even now, on the basis of the fact that, on the background of absence of election process, the political parties and movements have already begun the work for improvement of the professional level of their representatives in the election process.
CONCEPTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN CIVIL ACTIVITIES OF THE PARTIES OF THE CHERNIGIV OBLAST
Practically all public speeches of representatives of both pro-power and opposition parties are accompanied with grandiloquent declarations on the priority of the protection of human rights and freedoms in their activities. Yet, it should be noted that each force understands this in its own way. So, most often the human rights are interpreted as peace in society, good work of communal services, payment of pensions and compensations, prohibition of rise in prices, etc. The problem of civil rights, in particular, the freedom of speech and the press and the freedom of choice, is raised very frequently, mainly by representatives of the opposition.
FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND THE PRESS IN THE OBLAST EDITIONS
In May the editorial policy of the regional editions began to change in the connection with the coming election.
In order to study the situation with rights and freedoms in the materials of mass media, our committee carried out the research of all social-political mass media of the Chernigiv oblast, which
- were published during the last month;
- were published regularly;
- were published for more than a year;
- were distributed through the catalogues of “UkrPoshta” (main Ukrainian post company – Translators note).
So, we monitored the editions, which had the permanent audience and were distributed on the commercial basis, and got the following results.
It was ascertained that almost 100% of the social-political mass media became the mouthpieces of concrete political forces. At that we are anxious about absolute absence of alternative presentation of materials in these mass media. The editions devote the majority of materials to some political idea (we fixed the newspapers, in which the amount of the information about one potential candidate to Presidents post was 95%), but they do not publish the materials with the alternative point of view on facts and processes. In any of the analyzed newspapers we did not find the alternative opinions or references of the authors to the existence of such opinions. This fact shows that the newspapers have the established priorities (censorship?) in elucidation of the events. This means that all materials in the press are directed and cannot be a source of unbiased information. Such situation allows to ascertain that the problems exist with the freedom of speech and the press in the region. At that, one may also say about impediment to the right for the access to information, in particular to the unbiased social-political information.
In the course of monitoring we analyzed the materials published in mass media with the aim to clarify the situation with the observance of human rights and freedoms in the contents. The results of analysis of the contents were not consoling too. The following fragment of an article is rather typical:
“Viktor Yanukovich is the only candidate to Presidents post. The leaders of deputies fractions, groups and political partiers, which are the members of the parliamentary-governmental coalition, issued on Wednesday, at the sitting with the presence of President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma, the decision on nomination of Viktor Yanukovich as the only candidate to Presidents post on the election-2004… They came to the agreement that the completion of the political reform in Ukraine and introduction of changes into Constitution would be the foundation of the program of this candidate. Leaders of the following fractions and parties took part in the meeting: the Agrarian party of Ukraine, Peoples-democratic party, Party of regions, Party of industrialists and businessmen of Ukraine, “Trudova Ukraina”, Social-democratic party (united), deputies groups “Demokratichny initsiativy”, “Narodny vybir” and “Narodovladdya”.” (17 April 2004, “Desnianska Pravda”, founders: the Chernigiv oblast council, Chernigiv oblast state administration and primary organization of journalists of the editorial board).
This article is, obviously, the political agitation for concrete potential candidate to presidency before the beginning of the election process and registration of candidates.
Another interesting fact was disclosed in the course of monitoring. During the entire period of the research not a single newspaper founded by the organs of state power or local self-government published any critical materials about the potential opposition candidates, for instance, V. Yushchenko. It seems that these editions merely ignore both positive and negative features of the opposition. These editions mainly describe either the personality of the head of the government, or the achievements of the operating power headed by the government, or the improvement of the living standard in our country. And all this information has no alternatives too.
Somewhat different situation is observed in the opposition editions, such, for instance as “Bila khata”, “Sivershchina”, etc. It is sufficient to read the titles of some publications: “Government concealed 10 billion hryvnas from people”, “Where are 900 billions?”, “Intelligentsia of Ukraine with “Our Ukraine””, “Melitopol: What Kuchma, Yanukovich and Marchuk conceal?”, and it is not difficult to guess that these articles contain many facts that compromise the power organs and concrete state officials. Yet, these editions have the same problems as the mass media founded by the organs of state power and local self-government: absence of alternatives of presentation of information. In general, the opposition editions focus the attention on criticism, in rather harsh and confrontational form, of the actions of the operating government and President. The impression is created that the opposition ignores, at this point, the constructive moments of the development of Ukrainian society, in particular, in the sphere of human rights and freedoms.
When these mass media elucidate the activities of the candidates from opposition, they use the same methods as the state editions: they describe “good” and “beneficent” actions of V. Yushchenko and his bloc “Our Ukraine”. There was the information that MP Lilia Grogorovich, the head of the Union of Ukrainian women (fraction of V. Yushchenkos bloc “Our Ukraine”), presented a color TV set to a family with many children from the village of Olenivka of the Borzianskiy district. It is interesting that at the same time the state mass media published the materials about the aid rendered to invalids by representatives of the state. In this case the similarity amazes of presentation of such events by the opposition and state mass media.
So, some conclusions may be made: mass media, both state and opposition ones, not always give the attention to the creation of the unbiased picture of the society and understand the legal consequences of their publications. The state mass media mainly present the materials about the achievements of the operating government and describe the positive sides of personality of the Prime-Minister of Ukraine. The opposition mass media of the Chernigiv oblast, in their turn, incline to the negative elucidation of the activities of representatives of the organs of state power and local self-government; besides, they describe, although to a smaller extent, the positive personal features of their candidate and the work of his political movement. All mass media give no alternative information.
Moreover, none of the analyzed newspapers attended to the problems of education of the potential voters concerning their civil and political rights. This means that the mass media have only political goals.
HUMAN RIGHTS, ELECTION, ORGANS OF STATE POWER…
We want to add that, according to the conclusions of our analysts, the situation with human rights, connected with the election process, in the Chernigiv oblast will change in the nearest future. The considerable changes in the organs of state power of the oblast evidence that. It became known to our committee that the staff changes had been carried out during last months in the departments of the Chernigiv oblast administration. For instance the staff of the department of internal policy was increased in several times; as a result, other departments, which were not connected with the internal policy, had to move from the main building of the oblast state administration. According to the same information, departments and directorates of the OSA got the order to concentrate their activities on the search of examples of the achievements of the operating government in the context of the life of the oblast and to pass this information to other departments, which were responsible for distribution of this information among mass media. In the course of distribution of this information representatives of the power tried to emphasize on the observance of human rights by state structures and impossibility of violation of these rights on their side, to adduce the positive examples of settlement of separate cases.
However, in the second half of May these activities became less energetic because of the probable changes in preferences concerning the future of the only candidate to presidency from the power. Yet, the actions for the support of Prime-Minister V. Yanukovich were conducted in different regions of the oblast.
The conclusion can be drawn from the above-said: the election process has not begun yet, but the preparation to this process is carried out in the Chernigiv oblast, and the observance of human rights and freedoms is an integral part of the propaganda activities.
We want to express our gratitude to all representatives of the organs of state power and local self-government, political structures and public organizations, which helped us to prepared this digest, and invite everybody to render us the informational support in the fulfillment of the project.