National Commission on Affirmation of Freedom of Speech: Censorship is unacceptable
The National Commission on Affirmation of Freedom of Speech and Development of the Information Sphere [the Commission] has issued a statement expressing concern over the situation developing in Ukraine’s information realm and drawing attention to the fact that journalists’ rights are more and more often infringed in Ukraine.
The Commission refers to public statements issued by journalists from three national television channels – 1+1, STB and TVi, “physical obstruction of an STB correspondent by an official from the Kyiv City State Administration, as well as the inaction of the authorities during the work of the Novy Channel filming crew. Expert monitoring shows that bodies of power are becoming less open, and the public, via the imposition of recommendations or directives, is being foisted servile information discourse.
They point out that these and other events have already aroused concern in the international community and refer to statements issued by the European Commission, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic (http://www.osce.org/fom/item_1_43614.html ), the European Federation of Journalists, and the European Group of the International Federation of Journalists.
The Commission draws attention to the fact that restriction of journalists’ rights is in breach of Ukraine’s Constitution and legislation. It “stresses that the shameful practice of interference in the activities of the Ukrainian media, making subjects taboo and forcing media self-censorship are unacceptable and have always stood in the way of successful social transformation. Attempts to justify acts of censorship with rhetoric about specific requirements of editorial policy do not stand up to criticism.
The National Commission on Affirmation of Freedom of Speech and Development of the Information Sphere calls on media owners and top management to not use manipulative techniques, to not drag journalists into the political struggle and not destroy the profession, and to also unwaveringly observe editorial statutes. We call on journalists to be more active in using mechanisms of collective defence of their professional rights, including with the help of trade unions.
In view of the above, the National Commission on Affirmation of Freedom of Speech and Development of the Information Sphere demands that the authorities:
- safeguard the real independence of the public regulatory board in the area of television and radio broadcasting;
- ensure free access and participation of journalists in events involving the leaders of the country;
- implement the provisions of the Verkhovna Rada Regulations which state that the Committee on Protection of Freedom of Speech should be chaired by a member of the opposition as an important mechanism of parliamentary control in this sphere;
- urgently carry out reform of media legislation in order to:
- transform State television and radio broadcasting into public broadcasting channels, as well as bringing legislation on television and radio broadcasting into line with Ukraine’s Constitution and international statndards;
- provide for transparency of media ownership;
- reform State-owned and municipal printed media outlets.
- remove the stamp restricting access from Ministry of Internal Affairs Order No. 88 from 23.03.2010 “On improving cooperation between Internal Affairs bodies and the media” and ensure its circulation.
The National Commission on Affirmation of Freedom of Speech and Development of the Information Sphere was dissolved by President Yanukovych, together with a number of commissions set up by his predecessor, at the beginning of April. The Commission decided to continue its work as an independent media expert association, working on the basis of self-government and self-regulation, in order to implement European media standards.