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24.02.2007

“The revoking of a Kharkiv correspondent’s accreditation is persecution for criticism”

   

The Commission of Journalist Ethics considers the revoking by the press service of the Kharkiv City Council of Maria Spalek’s accreditation to be an act of persecution for criticism and obstruction of her professional work. The Commission has made an appeal to the Prosecutor General and hopes that the latter will react to this incident.  Their statement, given below, was circulated on Friday 23 February.

Statement from the Commission on Journalist Ethics on unlawful interference in journalists’ activities

The Commission of Journalist Ethics deems the report by the press service of the Kharkiv City Council that it has revoked the accreditation of a journalist from the newspaper “Komersant – Ukraina” to be an act of persecution for criticism and obstruction of journalists’ professional activities. Officials of the said body of local self-government have exceeded the powers vested in them by the Constitution and laws of Ukraine.

The Constitution defines the role of bodies of local self-government as being “to independently resolve issues of local character”, and clearly outlines these issues. The comprehensive list most certainly does not contain issues regarding professional journalist ethics. Instead both the Constitution and laws set down a not exhaustive list of duties of bodies of local self-government on ensuring the right of citizens to information, namely:

  • to provide full and accurate information about its activities and decisions it has taken;
  • to ensure that journalists have free access to information;
  • to create special information services safeguarding access to information;
  • not putting any pressure on journalists nor interfering in their work;
  • providing accreditation for journalists and technical staff of media outlets and providing logistical backup for them to carry out their duties.

The procedure for accreditation and the revoking of such is regulated by a law which gives the only grounds being infringement of the procedure of access of journalists to premises, information and technical means of the authority or bodies of local self-government. An additional guarantee against the arbitrary rule of officials is also given in the fact that decisions on revoking accreditation are taken by the authority or body where the journalist has this accreditation.

Thus instead of carrying out their direct duty to ensure that journalists receive information about its activities and decisions taken by the Kharkiv City Council, instead of  providing logistical backup for journalists to carry out their duties (informing them about important measures and plans of the city council, providing copies of documents, full information about decisions being prepared or passed, safeguarding access of journalists to means of communication and to important sources of information), the press service has resorted to censorship, persecution and recriminations against journalists.

The Commission would welcome efforts by the official  of the press service of the Kharkiv City Council to involve specialists, including journalists, in preparing new regulations on the press service and procedure for accreditation of journalists and technical staff, since the present documents do not comply with either the Constitution and Ukrainian legislation, or international standards.

We are appealing to the Prosecutor General and look forward to hearing his response to the actions of public official of a body of local self-government which, in our view, contain features of the offence defined in Article 171 of the Criminal Code. (obstruction of journalists when carrying out their professional duties – translator)

Press history demonstrates that public officials who accuse journalists of special operations or information wars have grounds for fearing that their activities will be made public, while for a politician the reputation of being an “enemy of the press” spells political death.

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