Freedom of speech in presidential hopefuls’ programmes
Stressing the need for voters to choose candidates on the basis of their programmes, not their personalities, Taras Shevchenko and Olha Sushko from the Media Law Institute have carried out an analysis of where the 18 registered candidates for presidential office stand on certain key issues. They found that only half mention the issues of freedom of speech, media activity, access to information, advertising and propaganda. Furthermore, the relevant parts of their programmes are often declarative and lack specific detail.
Viktor Yushchenko’s pre-election programme states confidently that “Political censorship has been destroyed in Ukraine. We defended freedom of speech”, while future strategy envisages affirmation of independent journalism; public control over the information realm and priority for national media production.
In her programme, Yulia Tymoshenko asserts that “the conditions for independence from the authorities and the politicized capital of oligarchs will be created for journalists. The principles of editorial policy which make journalists independent will receive the status of Law.” Communist Petro Symonenko also includes the idea of freeing the electronic media from the monopoly of oligarchs in his programme. Serhiy Tihipko’s strategy is based on commitment to freedom of speech, respect for the views of others, etc, but provides no specific plans. Inna Bohoslovska gives a more specific proposal regarding the development of television: placing on State and private media outlets State commissioned documentary, scientific and cultural programmes.
Only two programmes – those of leaders of the far right “Liberty Party” [V.O. “Svoboda”] Oleh Tyahnybok and of the Ukrainian People’s Party Yury Kostenko – have proposals for improving the conditions for the development of the information realm.
The issue of access to information is addressed only by some candidates and in terms of access to the Internet. Of the candidates with a real chance of reaching the second round of voting, Yulia Tymoshenko promises to ensure access for all citizens to the Internet with this being made available in school education.
Three candidates – Oleh Tyahnybok, Anatoly Hrytsenko and the present Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada Volodymyr Lytvyn – propose a total ban on advertising alcohol and tobacco.
Symonenko and Hrytsenko propose banning propaganda of violence, cruelty and debauchery. Tyahnybok’s programme proposes introducing criminal liability for “propaganda of drug addiction and sexual deviation”.
The programmes of Viktor Yanukovych, Arseny Yatsenyuk, Oleksandr Moroz, Serhiy Ratushnyak (who gained notoriety through his anti-Semitic comments about Yatsenyuk) and a number of candidates unlikely to receive many votes contain no mention at all of freedom of speech and development of the mass media.
Unfortunately none of the programmes provide clear information and specific mechanisms, and it is therefore difficult to understand how exactly the candidates plan to keep their promises. The authors do stress that the word limit on such programmes does not enable clear and detailed plans regarding all issues, and more importantly the Constitution does not provide the President with the powers to enable him or her to single-handedly implement their plans.
The full report (of which this is a summary) is available in Ukrainian at: http://www.telekritika.ua/media-continent/monitoring/politprogram/2009-12-29/50172