Kharkiv journalists to argue over their jobs and press freedom in court
On 19 October at a press conference in Kharkiv, Journalists from the foreign media project “Miska varta” [“City Watch”] announced that they were taking the owner of the media project to court for wrongful dismissal. “The owner has for several months been ignoring the demands of the staff and refusing to sign principles on editorial policy and a labour contract”, the head of the first branch of the Ukrainian Media Trade Union, Oleksandr Zinchenko, stated.
He explained the need to go to court being due to the journalists having experienced “direct pressure” and obstruction to their work. “Appointed “supervisors” flagrantly interfere in the creative process, in formulating the strategy and themes for television programs”.
Another problem is how to determine the owner so as to take him to court. Zinchenko explains that the actual owner is the head of the Department on legal and economic issues of the trading group “Target” Vladislav Protas. However the official owner is the company Union Investment Ltd which is registered in Belize. “At the moment we are consulting with lawyers about who to bring the suit against”, Zinchenko, now the former editor of the television group of the project, explains.
From 12-15 October the journalists who are protesting took leave in order to avoid dismissal. According to Rostislav Kasyaneko, director of “City Watch”, more than 20 journalists have already been dismissed. “We were sent dismissal notices with an illegible signature and the word “Administration”, Rostislav says. The grounds for the dismissal were given as being “absenteeism” since 2 October. Although Rostislav points out that the television programs went on air on 7, 8 and 9 October, so the journalists during those days were at work.
The founder of the foreign company “City Watch” - Union Investment Ltd is headed by Kostyantin Skydan. The media project itself includes a television group, a website and a newspaper.
The Ukrainian Independent Trade Union is expressing its solidarity and support for the journalists from Kharkiv who are standing up for their professional and labour rights. It calls on the owners and founders to carry out the legitimate demands of the journalists and to begin negotiations on drawing up a collective agreement in the editorial office of the media project “City Watch”.
It also calls on them to obey current legislation especially with regard to regulating labour relations and the professional rights of journalists.
The Independent Trade Union also asks the head of the Kharkiv regional department of the National Service for Mediation and Conciliation Olha Zuyeva to intervene in this conflict, and to provide assistance to the journalists and members of the Media Trade Union who are under threat of dismissal.
IMI, with information from the Press Service of the Ukrainian Independent Trade Union