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05.07.2010

“Stop Censorship” informs Hillary Clinton of threats to freedom of speech

   

At a meeting on 2 July, members of the civic movement “Stop Censorship”, including Natalya Ligachova, Victoria Syumar and Taras Shevchenko, informed US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton about the dangers to freedom of speech and about censorship in Ukraine. Ms Clinton responded that she was closely following the situation and said that she had spoken of it with Ukraine’s President and Minister of Foreign Affairs.

According to Victoria Syumar, Hillary Clinton stressed the need for active civic measures for the sake of safeguarding democracy, transparency and freedom.

The members of “Stop Censorship” had a more detailed conversation with representatives of the State Department, including with the Deputy Aide to Hillary Clinton on Europe and Eurasia, Daniel Russell.

Natalya Ligachova reported that the quality of the news broadcasting had radically deteriorated and “Telekritika” monitoring was finding virtually no criticism of the regime on television channels. “We are seeing that the information flow is being coordinated from one centre. We have already noticed on many occasions how different channels use one and the same quotes”.

She cites as an example the feature on the creation of an investigative commission on “Rosukrenergo” and the speech given by Yulia Tymoshenko in the Verkhovna Rada. “On several channels they had the same quotes from Tymoshenko and Chechetov [from the Party of the Regions – translator]. And although Tymoshenko said that the loss of the case in the Stockholm Court could not have taken place without Yanukovych’s knowledge, that criticism of the President was removed on many channels.”

The members of “Stop Censorship” also explained that the creation was underway of a quasi form of public broadcasting which the working group which drew up the relevant Concept Framework had not invited any of the over ten organizations which have for many years been involved in this area and have drawn up a draft law on public broadcasting.

The US representatives were also interested in the role of the Internet in Ukraine. Natalya Ligachova reported that it had a strong position, and influenced opinion formers, however the new regime was trying to regulate it. For example, the government has drawn up a draft bill imposing fines on information agencies (among them many Internet publications) which work without State registration.

Victoria Syumar reports that the US representatives were also given a copy of the open letter from the TV channel TVi to Hillary Clinton (our translation here: khpg.org/index.php?id=1278113752).  She adds that “the people around Hillary Clinton are well aware of the situation. The main question from them is whether we are prepared to fight. After all, the Russian variant was possible in Russia because there was no opposition.  They asked if we were ready to stand firm, act, agree together. I answered, quoting Kuchma “Ukraine is not Russia”. And I would really like to believe that that is the case and that we can”.

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