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10.02.2006 | Oksana Nesterenko

An overview of changes in legislation regulating the activities of the Mass Media and freedom of information in Ukraine in 2005

   

Albert Camus once wrote “when the press is free, it can be either good or bad, however when the press is controlled, it can only be bad”. This position, formulated half a century ago, remains relevant to the pre-sent day.
Precisely for this reason, in evaluating amendments to legislation in the field of freedom of expression and the mass media, we should make our assessments based on the criterion of whether the amend-ments introduced increase the level of State control over the activities of the mass media or restrict free-dom of expression.
The main trends as regards legal regulation of the activities of the mass media and freedom of informa-tion in Ukraine which could be observed in 2005 were: inconsistency and unevenness in legislative policy, the lack of coordination of new laws with current legislation, the passing of laws and other normative legal acts which weakened pressure on the activities of the mass media, only to then after some time adopt legislative acts with entirely opposite, even reactionary, content. The main reasons for this would appear to have been the absence of a single policy in the sphere of legislative regulation of the activities of the mass media, a struggle between different political factions which has intensified on the eve of the parlia-mentary elections, as well as permanent conflict arising between the legislative and executive branches of power.
In general, all the amendments introduced to information legislation during the year, from the point of view of their influence on freedom of expression and the mass media can be loosely divided into the following categories:
Laws and other normative legal acts which were aimed at improving legal regulation of the activities of the mass media, namely: Law No. 2461-IV “On introducing amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On the National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council of Ukraine” from 03.03.2005; the Law of Ukraine “On the State Budget for Ukraine in 2005” from 25.03.2005 (this Law allows for the retention of tax conces-sions on value added tax for the sale and delivery of printed forms of the mass media); the Law of Ukraine “On introducing amendments to some legislative acts of Ukraine aimed at enabling citizens to exercise their electoral rights, ensuring freedom of political debate, an unbiased attitude from the mass media to candidates for the office of Deputy, to parties (blocs) taking part in the election process” from 17.11.2005 (this Law introduced amendments to the Law “On television and radio broadcasting” from 21.12.1993 and “On the election of State Deputies of Ukraine” from 7.07.2005); The Law “On introducing amendments to Article 9 of the Law of Ukraine “On the procedure for the coverage by the Mass Media of the activities of State executive bodies and bodies of local self-government in Ukraine” from 15.12.2005; The Law “On access to court rulings” from 22.12.2005; the Law “On introducing amendments to the Civil Code of Ukraine in connection with the right to information” from 12.12.2005; The Resolution of the Verk-hovna Rada № 2684-IV “On the recommendations of parliamentary hearings on “The Prospects for the creation of public television and radio broadcasting in Ukraine” from 21.06.2005; The Resolution of the Verkhovna Rada № 3100-IV “On safeguarding the unimpeded activities of the mass media during the pre-election period in 2006” from 17.11.2005; The Decree of the President of Ukraine № 1276/2005 “On ensuring public participation in forming and carrying out State policy” from 15.09.2005; the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine № 933 „On measures aimed at reforming and developing the Ukrain-ian national information agency "Ukrinform" during the period 2005-2007”; the Order of the Ministry of Transport and Communications № 584 “On revoking the Order of the Ministry of Transport and Commu-nications of Ukraine № 153 "On approving the Procedure for carrying out State registration of electronic information resources” from 26.09.2005.
2. Legislative acts which limit freedom of expression and information and which do not comply with either the Constitution of Ukraine, or international legal standards in this field. These are as follows: Law № 2777-IV “On introducing amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On the election of State Deputies of Ukraine” from 7.07.2005”; the Order of the Ministry of Transport and Communications of Ukraine № 153 "On approving the Procedure for carrying out State registration of electronic information resources” from 27.04.2005 (this was revoked); the Law “On television and radio broadcasting” (new edition) from 12.01.2006 (not yet signed by the President), the introduction of amendments to Article 182 of the Crimi-nal Code of Ukraine, in accordance with the Law “On introducing amendments to the Criminal and the Criminal Procedure Codes of Ukraine, to the Administrative Offences Code of Ukraine, with regard to the safeguarding of individual human and civil rights and freedoms” from 12.01.2006 (not yet signed by the President); the Law "On the procedure for appointing managers (presidents) of the National Television Company of Ukraine (NTCU) and the National Radio Broadcasting Company of Ukraine (NRBCU) and on suspension of their authority” from 12.01.2006 (not yet signed by the President).
3. Amendments which have not had any significant impact on freedom of expression and which fulfil a purely technical function. For example, on 6 September 2005 amendments were introduced to Article 12 of the Law “On television and radio broadcasting” (at the present time a new version of the Law “On tele-vision and radio broadcasting” from 12.01. 2005 has been passed, however it is not clear whether this will be signed by the President of Ukraine). These amendments were of a purely financial and practical eco-nomic nature, and concerned the regulating of financial and economic activities of the NTCU and the NRBCU. There introduction, therefore, had no impact at all on freedom of expression and of information.
We will take a chronological view of how information legislation changed through 2005 and intro 2006 in order to understand the dynamics of these changes.
The first positive change in 2005 related to legislative regulation of the media, with a new version of the Law “On the National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council of Ukraine” being passed on 3 March. Among the amendments which made life easier for television and radio companies was the removal from forms of possible sanctions (Article 32 of the new version of the Law) of the possibility of a television or radio broadcasting company having its licence temporarily suspended (for a period of up to two months) by the National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council (Article 21 of the previous version of the Law). The procedure for forming this part of the National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council of Ukraine, the members of whom are appointed by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, has also become more democ-ratic. As a result of the amendments introduced, civic institutions can take a more active role in appointing members of the National Council. The Law also significantly strengthens the norms designed to safe-guard openness in its activity. However, at the same time, certain provisions of the Law cannot be called progressive. For example, the Law does not allow for the possibility of representatives of the Mass Media putting forward proposals as to candidates to be the members (or one member) of the National Council that are appointed by the President of Ukraine. It is also true, as one media institute put it, that “… the norm of the Law in accordance with which, after reviewing the report of the National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council, the Verkhovna Rada or the President will have the right to dismiss its panel of members, seriously jeopardizes the possibility of the National Council remaining independent … such a norm does not comply with European standards”. However, in general, the new version of the relevant Law is well-founded and capable of transforming the National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council away from being an instrument with which the regime sought to control independent outlets of the Mass Media into an institution which will support the development of television and radio broadcasting.
However the adoption of Law № 2461-IV “On introducing amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On the National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council of Ukraine” from 03.03.2005 without the appropriate amendments being introduced to the Law “On television and radio broadcasting” from 21.12.1993 led to a clash between individual norms of these laws. In particular, as has already been mentioned, the right of National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council to temporarily suspend broadcasting licences has been abolished, yet according to Article 5 of the Law “On television and radio broadcasting” from 21.12.1993 the National Council still retains this right.
After the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine passed the new version of the Law “On the election of State Depu-ties of Ukraine” on 7 July 2005, it became even less clear exactly which State executive body had the right to temporarily suspend or withdraw the licence of a television or radio broadcasting company. Ac-cording to Part 10 of Article 71 “…. where there has been an infringement by a media outlet of the re-quirements set out in parts five or nine of this Article, on the petition of the Central Election Commission or of the relevant district electoral commission, the particular media outlet shall have its licence or the is-sue of printed material temporarily suspended (pending the end of the election process) according to the procedure stipulated in law. In the event of any other infringements being committed by a media outlet, the requirement of this Law for the temporary suspension of the force of the licence or of the issue of printed matter shall be implemented exclusively with the sanction of the court”.
The new version of the Law “On the election of State Deputies of Ukraine” from 7.07.2005 has substan-tially restricted freedom of expression and could in general paralyze the activity of the Mass Media over the period of the pre-election campaign in 2006. In particular, Part 12 of Article 67 of this Law stipulates that “coverage of the election process in mass media outlets of all kinds of property taking the form of in-formation reports, news, etc, shall be carried out without commentary and evaluation, exclusively on an objective, impartial and well-balanced basis”.
Thus, particular provisions of this Law which pertain to the regulation of the activity of the Mass Media during the election process have actually limited the constitutional right to information and freedom of ex-pression, that is, are not in compliance with the Constitution of Ukraine. After all, in accordance with Part 3 of Article 22 of the Constitution of Ukraine, «The content and scope of existing rights and freedoms shall not be diminished in the adoption of new laws or in the amendment of laws that are in force».
Amendments to the Law “On the election of State Deputies of Ukraine” from 7.07.2005 which brought it into compliance with the Constitution of Ukraine were only introduced in November 2005, in connection with the need to provide a legislative solution to the most immediate problems pertaining to the activity of the Mass Media during the period of the election campaign in 2006. In accordance with Point 2 of the Law of Ukraine “On introducing amendments to some legislative acts of Ukraine aimed at enabling citi-zens to exercise their electoral rights, ensuring freedom of political debate, an unbiased attitude from the mass media to candidates for the office of Deputy, to parties (blocs) taking part in the election process” from 17.11.2005, Part 10 of Article 71 of the Law “On the election of State Deputies of Ukraine” was given in the following version: “the decision about the temporary (pending the end of the election process) sus-pension of a licence, or about the temporary ban (pending the end of the election process) on the publica-tion of printed material shall be taken by the courts”. The aim of this norm guarantee is to safeguard the Mass Media against illegal loss of their licence, and to thus ensure freedom of expression in the Ukrainian Mass Media. The norm which prohibited journalists from giving commentaries and making assessments in the course of providing information reports has also been removed.
In addition, the Law of Ukraine “On introducing amendments to some legislative acts of Ukraine aimed at enabling citizens to exercise their electoral rights, ensuring freedom of political debate, an unbiased atti-tude from the mass media to candidates for the office of Deputy, to parties (blocs) taking part in the elec-tion process” from 17.11.2005 introduced amendments to Articles 5, 28, 30 of the Law “On television and radio broadcasting” which primarily concerned the limitation of the powers of the National Council, with regard to cancelling or temporarily suspending the licences of television or radio broadcasting companies. In particular, Parts 16, 17, 18 were removed from Article 5 of the Law, these having given the National Council the right, where infringements by a television or radio broadcasting company of current legislation or a breach of the conditions indicated in the licence had been detected, to temporarily suspend (for up to two months) or to cancel the licence. According to Article 28, the force of a licence issued by the National Council may only be temporarily suspended by court ruling. Thus, in accordance with the new version of Article 28, in the event of the broadcasting of programs containing information the dissemination of which is prohibited by legislation about the elections, the National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council of Ukraine on the application of the Central Election Commission or a district (territorial) electoral commis-sion can now no longer temporarily (pending the end of the election process) suspend a licence giving the right to use broadcasting channels.
The clash between provisions of the Law “On the National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council of Ukraine” from 03.03.2005 and the Law “On television and radio broadcasting” from 21.12.1993 has been reconciled.
A step backwards as far as freedom of information was concerned was the passing by the Ministry of Transport and Communications of Ukraine of the Order "On approving the Procedure for carrying out State registration of electronic information resources” (№ 153 from 27 April 2005). This Order fails to comply with international standards in the area of freedom of information and was an attempt by the re-gime to impose control over Internet resources. However, thanks to the active position taken by the public and in the first instance representatives of the mass media, the Order was revoked by Order of the Minis-try of Transport and Communications № 584 from 26 September 2005.
In November and December 2005, the Verkhovna Rada passed a whole range of progressive Laws in the area of freedom of expression and the Mass Media, namely: the Law “On access to court rulings” from 22.12.2005; the Law “On introducing amendments to the Civil Code of Ukraine in connection with the right to information” from 22.12.2005; the Law “On introducing amendments to Article 9 of the Law of Ukraine “On the procedure for the coverage by the Mass Media of the activities of State executive bodies and bodies of local self-government in Ukraine” from 15.12.2005, as well as the Law of Ukraine “On intro-ducing amendments to some legislative acts of Ukraine aimed at enabling citizens to exercise their elec-toral rights, ensuring freedom of political debate, an unbiased attitude from the mass media to candidates for the office of Deputy, to parties (blocs) taking part in the election process” from 17.11.2005, which has been discussed.
The Law passed on 22.12.2005 “On access to court rulings” (which is to come into force from 1 June 2006) is a significant step forward in the process of improving legislation aimed at safeguarding access of the public to information. This Law is in keeping with international standards, is logically constructed and considerably simplifies the procedure for access to court rulings through the creation of a Single State Register of court rulings (hereinafter the Register).
We will consider the main provisions of this Law. Article 2 of the Law “On access to court rulings” allows for the creation of a Single State Register of court rulings. According to the Law, this Register is an automated system for collecting, storing, protecting, registering, searching for and providing electronic copies of court rulings (rulings, court orders, resolutions, verdicts, decisions). It is the duty of the State Court Administration of Ukraine to ensure the implementation of the Single State Register of court rulings. It is planned that by the time the Law comes into force on 01.06.2006 the constant inclusion into the Sin-gle State Register of court rulings will have been ensured of decisions of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, the higher specialized courts, the appeal and local administrative courts, the appeal and local economic courts, the appeal general courts, while the introduction of court rulings from local general courts will have been achieved not later than 1 January 2007.
An important innovation of this Law is the fact that access to court rulings added to the Register will be available for round-the-clock access free of charge on an official website of the Ukrainian judiciary. This access is full, with one single restriction: court rulings on open general access through their publication on the official website of the judiciary, or officially published in print, must not disclose information which could lead to the identification of individuals. Such information must be replaced by letters or numbers to denote the person. The need for such a restriction is determined by the need to safeguard the right to privacy set down in Article 32 of the Constitution of Ukraine. The Law deems Information which makes it possible to identify an individual to be: names (first name, patronymic, last name / surname) of individu-als, the addresses of the place of residence or where individuals are staying, telephone numbers or num-bers of other means of communication, email addresses, identification numbers (codes) and registration numbers of means of transport. In addition, the texts of court rulings, on general open access, may not disclose information where, in order to ensure that the said information was not divulged, a court decision was taken to review the case in a court hearing behind closed doors.
The Law also provides regulation of the issue of protection of information being added to the Register, of reproduction and other use of court rulings, official publication of court rulings, the procedure for access to court rulings by interested individuals, complaints procedure in the event that a person is refused access to a court ruling.
We consider that the Law “On access to court rulings” from 22.12.2005 is extremely successful both in form and in content, and is thus capable of making the activity of the judiciary more open to the public.
There are, however, some lawyers who believe that this Law is too liberal, and that it is too soon to adopt such a law in Ukraine. They also consider that the implementation of provisions of the Law will demand considerable financial expenditure. We do not share their view, since those values guaranteed by the Constitution of Ukraine, such as the right of access to information and openness of the court process, outweigh the argument that additional financial spending from State Revenue will be needed to create the Single Register of court rulings.
In order to resolve the problem of organizing coverage of the work of the Verkhovna Rada by the audio-visual forms of the mass media, on 15 December 2005 the Verkhovna Rada passed the Law “On intro-ducing amendments to Article 9 of the Law of Ukraine “On the procedure for the coverage by the Mass Media of the activities of State executive bodies and bodies of local self-government in Ukraine”. The amendments which were made to Article 9 of the Law related to the period of legal force of the resolution which determines the procedure for coverage of the activities of the Verkhovna Rada. For example, where previously the procedure and forms of compulsory coverage of the activities of the Verkhovna Rada by the audiovisual forms of the mass media (fulfilling a State order) were defined by a separate Resolution of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine for each current session of the Verkhovna Rada, now in accordance with the amendments introduced, a separate resolution is taken for the whole period of office of the latest intake of the Verkhovna Rada.
On 12 December 2005 the Verkhovna Rada passed the Law “On introducing amendments to the Civil Code of Ukraine in connection with the right to information”. The amendments made to the provisions of Articles 23, 277, 278, 296, 301 and 302 of the Civil Code of Ukraine were brought about by the need for a clearer definition of certain provisions of the Law in order to avoid more than one possible interpretation in practical application, as well as by the need to bring the terminology of the Code into line with the termi-nology of the Constitution and current legislation concerning information. In particular, the wording of Article 277 was refined. The previous version of Part 3 of Article 277 had the incorrect statement: “it is con-sidered that negative information disseminated about an individual is untruthful”. Precisely in order to avoid ambiguity in interpretation of this norm by the courts, Part 3 of Article 277 was altered in the next version to read: “negative information disseminated about an individual shall be considered untruthful unless the individual who disseminated the information provides proof to the contrary”. This has made the norm clearer, better defined and able to be applied.
From Article 302 of the Civil Code of Ukraine the provision has been removed which read: “… it is also not permitted to collect information which is a State secret or the confidential information of a legal entity”. In the opinion of the authors of this Law, the said norm violated the constitutional right to freely collect, store, use and disseminate information. They also stressed that “the procedure for treatment of informa-tion on restricted access is already regulated by legislation”, and for this reason suggested that the norm be removed from Article 302 of the Civil Code of Ukraine .
Thus, the passing by the Verkhovna Rada of this law will have positive consequences for the consolida-tion of freedom of expression in Ukraine. Mykola Tomenko (one of those who initiated the Law “On intro-ducing amendments to the Civil Code of Ukraine (in connection with the right to information)” stresses that “… this law has not less significance than other prominent victories of journalists in their fight against political censorship. After all, according to the old version of the relevant Article of the Civil Code any negative information disseminated about an individual was considered untruthful. This effectively intro-duced political censorship by imposing restrictions on the publication of negative information.”
Confirmation of the fact that legislative policy related to the regulation of the information activities of the Mass Media is inconsistent, can be seen in the passing of the new version of the Law “On Television and Radio Broadcasting” from 12.01.2006. This Law, in the opinion of many specialists, will, if it comes into effect, have a negative impact on the development of television and radio broadcasting given its signifi-cant flaws. For example, the Director of the Media Law Institute, Taras Shevchenko, considers that:
“1. The introduction of a tender guarantee which is non-refundable, constituting 10% of the licence fee totally undermines the principles of fairness of tender procedures. This effectively means that the Na-tional Council will take payment in the form of 10% of the licence fee from each applicant submitting a bid for the tender. Moreover, this money will be returned only to the winner;
2. The Law establishes a quota on European production of 80%, with the quota on Ukrainian production remaining the same – 50 %. However this new element does not comply with the European Convention on trans-border television which strictly fixes the quota on European production at the 50 % level. Ukraine has already signed the European Convention and wants to ratify it, even referring to the Conven-tion in this law, and it should not be adopting a law which runs counter to an international document.;
3. The provisions on the procedure for appointing the managers of the National Television Company of Ukraine and the National Radio Broadcasting Company of Ukraine do not comply with the other law on this issue which was passed the day before. In addition to this, the President consistently vetoes all initia-tives of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine which allow for the appointment of managers of the NTCU and NRBCU with the participation of the Verkhovna Rada since these powers are not assigned to the Verk-hovna Rada in the Constitution and others;
4. The new procedures are not integrated which could lead to a situation where it is impossible to imple-ment even the positive provisions. The rules on registration totally cancel out the provisions regarding the provision of subletting. The Law contains unnecessary doubling up with other laws, norms of the Civil Code, the Criminal Code, while some norms actually show discrepancies” . The definitions of certain terms in the Law also require comment. At the same time, however, some provisions of the Law are pro-gressive, In particular, the new version of the Law “On television and radio broadcasting” allows for amending Article 16 of the Law “On the National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council of Ukraine”. It has already been mentioned that the current Article 16 of the Law “On the National Television and Ra-dio Broadcasting Council of Ukraine” significantly limits the independence of the National Council since “… resulting from a review of the report of the National Council, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine may ex-press a vote of no confidence in the National Council which shall result in the dismissal of the full panel of members”. In contrast to the current version, the new version envisages that the dismissal of the entire panel of members shall be possible only after a vote of confidence is expressed both by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and by the President of Ukraine.
Concern has been raised among journalists by the revised version of Article 182 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (set out in the Law “On introducing amendments to the Criminal and the Criminal Procedure Codes of Ukraine, to the Administrative Offences Code of Ukraine, with regard to the safeguarding of in-dividual human and civil rights and freedoms” from 12.01.2006. The new version of Article 182 in comparison with its predecessor substantially increases the sanction, with the amount payable in fines, in par-ticular, having risen sharply. Whereas according to the previous version, the amount of the fine could not exceed 50 times the minimum wage before tax, now the fine can be from one hundred to five hundred times the minimum wage before tax. In addition, Article 162 has been supplemented by a part two with the following content: “… those specific activities, carried out by an official, or repeated or having been planned in advance by a group of people, or with the use of technical devices for the illicit interception, destruction, diversion, blocking, leaking or disruption of the established procedure for channelling infor-mation which is transmitted through means of communication, in networks of moving (mobile) communi-cation and in other telecommunication networks and via a computer shall be subject to a fine from five hundred to two thousand times the minimum wage before tax, or to restriction of liberty for up to five years, or to deprivation of liberty from three to twelve years with the loss of the right to hold certain posts or to take part in certain activities for a period of up to three years, and with confiscation of property”. We consider that the amendments introduced place freedom of expression in Ukraine in jeopardy.
Throughout 2005 and at the beginning of 2006 other legislative acts were passed which did not have any serious impact on freedom of expression and the Mass Media, at the same time, however, their adoption is of some significance for the information activity of means of mass communication. These are the Law “On introducing amendments to Article 12 of the Law of Ukraine “On television and radio broadcasting” from 06.09. 2005; amendments to Article 6 of the Law “On information” in connection with the adoption of the Law “On the legal status of Ukrainians abroad” from 4.03.2004 (Article 6 of of the Law “On informa-tion” had a provision added according to which one of the main directions in State information policy is assisting in meeting the information requirements of Ukrainians abroad; the Decree of the President of Ukraine № 1276/2005 № 1276/2005 “On ensuring public participation in forming and carrying out State policy” from 15.09.2005; the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine № 933 „On measures aimed at reforming and developing the Ukrainian national information agency "Ukrinform" during the pe-riod 2005-2007”; the Decree of the President of Ukraine № 1338/2005 „On improving State administra-tion in the information sector” from 26.09.2005; the Resolution of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine “On ap-proving the Objectives of the National Program for automation of information for 2006-2008” № 3075-IV and others.
The picture of changes which have taken place in legislation pertaining to freedom of expression over the year would not be complete without a review of the issue concerning the creation of public (civic) broad-casting.
The main function of the Mass Media is providing the public with reliable and socially significant informa-tion. However, in the view of many academics, the Mass Media in the 20th century turned into monopolis-tic organizations which tried not so much to fulfil this main function, but rather to mould public opinion and to manipulate it . We believe that this situation can be improved through the creation of public television. In connection with this James Carren states that despite all odds, public television copes much better with the role of “watchdog of democracy” than that part of the Mass Media which is owned by private capi-tal. Doubts are nonetheless expressed fairly often in Western sources as to whether public broadcasting is independent and whether it provides objective coverage of all socially significant events.
At the present time in Ukraine virtually everybody is in agreement with regard to the need to create public broadcasting. However the discussion has been raging for several years now as to what kind of model of public broadcasting with be the most acceptable for Ukraine. In 2005 the process of debating the concept of creating public broadcasting and drawing up and passing a new version of the Law “On a system of Public Television and Radio Broadcasting for Ukraine” was somewhat fraught. In the program on the ac-tivity of the Cabinet of Ministers “Towards meeting people’s needs”, which was approved with the Resolu-tion of the Cabinet of Ministers №115 from 04.02.2005, the government declared one of its main tasks to be the creation of public broadcasting as an unalienable component of civic society. The President of Ukraine in discussing the issues involved with creating public broadcasting has on several occasions spoken of the need to create public broadcasting as soon as possible. The Head of the President’s Se-cretariat, Oleh Rybachuk has also stressed the importance of this, declaring that “the position of the President of Ukraine and the Cabinet of Ministers is clear and unambiguous – there is a place for public television and radio broadcasting in Ukraine”. The Head of the Secretariat also pointed out that the Law “On a system of Public Television and Radio Broadcasting for Ukraine” will play a decisive role in carrying out the national project for public broadcasting and should be passed as soon as is feasible. On 13 April 2005 the Verkhovna Rada held public hearings entitled “The prospects for the creation of public television and radio broadcasting in Ukraine”. On the results of these hearings, the Verkhovna Rada passed Reso-lution № 2684-IV “On the recommendations of parliamentary hearings on “The Prospects for the creation of public television and radio broadcasting in Ukraine” from 21.06.2005. The Resolution stated that the plan for the new version of the Law of Ukraine “On a system of Public Television and Radio Broadcasting for Ukraine” needed to be treated as urgent.. Since the holding of the parliamentary hearings, the Law “On a system of Public Television and Radio Broadcasting for Ukraine” has been considered by Parlia-ment several times, yet it has still not been passed. The result of the last consideration of this Draft Law on 3 November 2005 was the adoption of a resolution to send the Law of Ukraine “On a system of Public Television and Radio Broadcasting for Ukraine” (the new version; Reg. No. N 7539) back for a repeat second reading.
Summarizing the activity of different State executive bodies in the area of regulating the activities of the mass media and freedom of information in Ukraine throughout 2005 and January 2006, one can note the following:
1. The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine passed thirteen laws connected with the regulation of the activities of the mass media and freedom of information, these including sever new laws or new versions, and six laws introducing amendments to current laws. In particular, amendments were passed to the Law “On television and radio broadcasting” from 21.12.1993 and the Law “On the election of State Deputies of Ukraine” from 7.07.2005 (the amendments mentioned were introduced through the Law of Ukraine “On introducing amendments to some legislative acts of Ukraine aimed at enabling citizens to exercise their electoral rights, ensuring freedom of political debate, an unbiased attitude from the mass media to candi-dates for the office of Deputy, to parties (blocs) taking part in the election process” from 17.11.2005); the Law “On information” from 02.10.1992. Amendments were introduced to Article 9 of the Law of Ukraine “On the procedure for the coverage by the Mass Media of the activities of State executive bodies and bodies of local self-government in Ukraine” (The Law introducing the amendments is from 15.12.2005); to Article 182 of the Criminal Code (The President has yet to sign the Law introducing the amendments to the Criminal Code from 12.01.2006); to the section “Personal non-property rights” of the Civil Code (The Law “On introducing amendments to the Civil Code of Ukraine in connection with the right to information” from 22.12.2005). Parliament passed six new laws pertaining to the Mass Media and freedom of informa-tion, namely: the Law of Ukraine “On the National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council of Ukraine” from 03.03.2005; the Law of Ukraine “On the State Budget for Ukraine in 2005” from 25.03.2005 (this Law envisages the retention of value added tax concessions on the sale and delivery of printed forms of the mass media); the Law “On the election of State Deputies of Ukraine” from 7.07.2005”; the Law “On access to court rulings” from 22.12.2005, The Law "On the procedure for appointing managers (presidents) of the National Television Company of Ukraine (NTCU) and the National Radio Broadcasting Company of Ukraine (NRBCU) and on suspension of their authority” from 12.01.2006 (not yet signed by the President); the Law “On television and radio broadcasting” (the new version) from 12.01.2006 (which has not yet been signed by the President). The Verkhovna Rada also passed several Resolutions on in-formation activity in Ukraine, these being: The Resolution of the Verkhovna Rada № 3075-IV “On approv-ing the Objectives of the National Program for automation of information for 2006-2008” from 04.11.2005; Resolution № 3100-IV “On safeguarding the unimpeded activities of the mass media during the pre-election period in 2006” from 17.11.2005; Resolution № 3175-IV “On Recommendations of the parliamen-tary hearings on issues relating to the development of the information society in Ukraine” from 01.12.2005.
On 13 April 2005 the Verkhovna Rada held parliamentary hearings on ““The Prospects for the creation of public television and radio broadcasting in Ukraine”. According to Resolution № 2449-IV passed by the Verkhovna Rada “On the parliamentary hearings “The current position and prospects for the development of State policy in the field of freedom of expression and information” from 03.03.2005, Parliament was planning to also hold hearings on “The current position and prospects for the development of State policy in the field of freedom of expression and information” in November-December, however these did not eventuate.
2. Over the past year, the President of Ukraine has issued the following five Decrees pertaining to free-dom of expression and the Mass Media: Decree № 1276/2005 “On ensuring public participation in form-ing and carrying out State policy” from 15.09.2005; Decree № 1338/2005 „On improving State administra-tion in the information sector” from 26.09.2005, Decree № 62/2006 «On ensuring the holding of democ-ratic, fair and transparent elections in 2006” from 24.01.2006, Decree № 1497/2005 “On the top-priority tasks in introducing innovative information technologies” from 24.10.2005, and the introduction on 22 January 2006 of amendments to Decree No. 325/2001 “On preparing proposals concerning the safe-guarding of openness and transparency of the activities of State executive bodies” from 17.05.2001.
3. Among the most important normative legal acts defining the legal status of the Mass Media and per-taining to freedom of expression which were issued by the Cabinet of Ministers or ministries through the year were the Program on the activity of the Cabinet of Ministers “Towards meeting people’s needs” (the program being approved by Resolution КМ N 115 from 04.02.2005); Resolution № 933 „On measures aimed at reforming and developing the Ukrainian national information agency "Ukrinform" during the pe-riod 2005-2007” from 19.09. 2005, Resolution № 1128 “The Issue of State registration of printed forms of the Mass Media and information agencies as participants in information activity” from 30.11.2005; the Or-der of the Ministry of Transport and Communications № 584 “On revoking the Order of the Ministry of Transport and Communications of Ukraine № 153 "On approving the Procedure for carrying out State registration of electronic information resources” from 26.09.2005.

Oksana Nesterenko,  PhD Student in the Faculty of Constitutional Law of the Yaroslav Mudry [the Wise] National Legal Academy

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