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03.05.2007

Media experts point to negative trends with respect to freedom of speech

   

This was the assessment given on 3 May at a press conference at the UNIAN agency by the Director of the Institute of Mass Information (IMI) Viktoria Syumar. She referred to results of monitoring of freedom of speech and an analysis of the situation in the information sphere in 2006, carried out by the IMI and the Ukrainian Independent Media Trade Union.

She said that the number of conflict situations between the press and the authorities had risen in the last year. The most critical months in this respect in 2006 had been March and August. This was due to the parliamentary election campaign, during which an increase in conflict is normal, and after the political crisis which ended in August with the appointment of Viktor Yanukovych Prime Minister.

Ms Syumar added that whereas in 2005 the number of beatings, attacks, and cases of harassment of journalists connected with their professional activities had been 16, in 2006 there had been 29 cases.

There had been 31 cases where journalists had been obstructed in carrying out their work in 2006 against 14 in 2005. The number of court cases had also risen sharply, with the figures having more than doubled.

The results of the monitoring show a disturbing lack of any legal reaction to beatings, attacks, and cases of harassment. Criminal investigations into such cases are either not launched, or fail to lead anywhere.

Several key issues remain in the information sphere which must be resolved if this sphere is to move towards greater democratization. The first of these is the creation of a system of public broadcasting.

An effective strategy plan also needs to be drawn up for denationalizing the media and the appropriate draft law prepared. As a result of this, the authorities must cease to be counted among the founders of media outlets

Ms Syumar did also note positive trends, the fact for example that there had been no killings of journalists or arrests on Ukrainian territory.

There remained also a relatively independent editorial policy in most central media outlets which meant that the Ukrainian public had the opportunity to receive balanced information.

In his turn, the Head of the Ukrainian Independent Media Trade Union Serhiy Huz stated that according to an independent survey carried out among journalists in Kyiv, Donetsk and Lviv regarding pressure on journalists and access to information, 85% of those surveyed were convinced that there was censorship in Ukraine, and 77% had themselves encountered it.

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