Open letter of the Association of media-lawyers of the Lviv region
The past year became a real challenge to mass media. Censorship, “temniks”, administrative and physical pressure were intended to keep down mass media, to make them servants of the ruling regime. Fortunately, this plan failed, and, as a result, mass media played an important role in democratic transformations in our country.
In general, the change of power in Ukraine positively affected the situation with the freedom of speech. Today mass media have more opportunities for free and independent work. The policy of non-interference into the work of mass media, publicly declared by power, is gradually realized. The shameful practice of “temniks” and censorship of journalists work is ceased on the central level.
At the same time, the statement that the problem of freedom of speech in Ukraine is solved, is, to put it mildly, an exaggeration. This especially concerns the regions, where local power organs still want to control mass media and influence editorial policy, thus exerting pressure on mass media. Unfortunately, such forms of “cooperation” with mass media are practiced in Lviv even after the Orange Revolution.
This is confirmed by the situation with the Lviv town newspaper “Ratusha”, which has been made to publish a discreditable and slanderous material. It can be said to the credit of journalists and editorial board of “Ratusha” that they refused to spread the ordered material and told to public about the pressure put upon them. It became known that the demand to publish the material was received by the newspaper by e-mail and was accompanied with oral instructions. Although the corresponding letter-order has not been signed, this does not relieve its authors of responsibility. In this connection we want to remind that “temniks” of the former Presidents administration were also spread without proper signatures, blanks and stamps. Nevertheless, all world community acknowledged this phenomenon to be an unprecedented form of censorship and illegal influence on mass media.
The Association of media-lawyers of the Lviv region is a union of lawyers of leading Lviv mass media and professionals in the sphere of mass media. The Association declares about inadmissibility of meddling into professional activities of journalists. Forcing to distribution of some information is a violation of law, which entails responsibility. We also want to remind the text of Article 45-1 of the Law of Ukraine “On information”:
“Article 45-1. Prohibition of censorship and prohibition of interference in the professional activities of journalists and mass media on the side of organs of state power or organs of local self-government, their officials.
Interference in the forms, which are not envisaged by Ukrainian legislation or the agreement concluded between the founder (co-founders) and editorial board of mass medium, is prohibited, as well as interference into professional activities of journalists, control over the contents of spread information on the side of founders (co-founders) of mass media, organs of state power or organs of local self-government, officials of these organs, in particular for the purpose of distribution of not-distribution of certain information, concealment of socially important information, prohibition to show certain persons or to spread information about them, prohibition to criticize the organs of state power or organs of local self-government, their officials.”
At the same time, representatives of the Association of media-lawyers of the Lviv region are sure that now one must not organize the “witch-hunting”. As a result of public discussion of the problem the mechanism should appear, which would allow to prevent such shameful incidents in future, since the main reason of the conflict around the newspaper “Ratusha” was not so much subjective factors as the uncertainty of legal status of state and communal mass media.
In this connection the Association of media-lawyers of the Lviv region consider necessary to initiate the process of reforming the communal media-sector and proposes its juridical and analytical aid to all interested sides.
Deputy Head of the Association of media-lawyers of the Lviv region