Morality Commission to battle with bad language on the Internet




On 19 November the National Expert Commission for the Protection of Public Morality (the Commission) began preparing amendments to current legislation. The changes will concern registration of websites as media outlets, as well as countering the spread of bad language on the Internet and media. In order to determine the list of words deemed foul [netsenzurni], the Commission will create a working group of journalists and philologists.

The Commission had been planning to approach the Cabinet of Ministers with a request to make amendments to legislation to bring in compulsory State registration of Internet sites as separate media outlets. However, at Thursday’s session, the Commission made concessions, agreeing to support voluntary registration of Internet outlets. According to the Head of the Commission, Vasyl Kostytsky, in taking this decision, the members of the Commission heeded the wishes of the Internet Association of Ukraine [IAU] which had insisted that it would be better to have solely voluntary registration of Internet outlets.

Members of the Commission and IAU will be in a working group drawing up the relevant amendments to the Law “On the Printed Media”

In addition, members of the Commission decided to turn to the Cabinet of Ministers with a request to supplement the Laws “On Television and Radio Broadcasting”; “On the Protection of Public Morality”, “On the Printed Media” with norms prohibiting the use of foul language in the media. The Commission is also proposing to introduce this norm into the Code of Administrative Offences, as well as conditions for issuing licenses by the National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council. Mr. Kostytsky said that the Commission sees the use of bad language as disrespectful to the audience and society in general. .

He added that the ban would apply only to the outlet’s own production, and not to cases where, for example, the bad language had been used by a visitor broadcast live. Another working group including journalists, specialists on history, language and the theory of journalism will be involved in determining a list of words falling under the ban.

Writer and artist Les Podervyansky is convinced that such restrictions will lead to total censorship and warns that “in fascist Germany it all began from such things.” Head of the Ukrainian Association of Media Lawyers Tetyana Kotyuzhynska regards the restrictions as excessive. She asserts that no media outlets encourage such language, and that there is no need for such a norm. Taras Shevchenko from the Media Law Institute agrees, finding the issue of bad language in the media contrived. He adds that one must first develop a mechanism establishing who should be punished, and for what.

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