Ukraine’s government moves in on information agencies
A draft law on State registration for information agencies has been tabled in the Verkhovna Rada. Some media specialists and politicians consider that the draft law, No. 6603, tabled on 30 June from the Cabinet of Ministers, could be an attempt by the government to establish control over Internet publications.
The draft law proposes a fine of 2 thousand UAH for the circulation of information by information agencies without State registrations.
It also envisages a fine of 120 times the minimum wage before tax for the issue or circulation of information material by the information agency without its State registration, and also for failing to reregister information agencies.
The relevant additions would be added to the Code of Administrative Offences. For the same actions repeated within a year, a fine of 300 times the minimum pay before tax would be imposed.
The draft law also envisages amendments to the law on information agencies which establish that before applying for State registration, the information agencies must provide Statute documents and extract from the Single Register of Legal and Individual Entrepreneurs.
In Ukraine there are a fair number of Internet sites which work without registration. This is, on the one hand, a particular feature of the independent information realm, on the other, creates conditions for spreading information the accuracy of which is sometimes hard to establish.
Control over the Internet?
Editor of the Internet publication “Telekritika” Natalya Ligachova points out that the draft law was registered when the President demonstrated before the government drugs which had supposedly been bought through the Internet.
“In one of the television features this came out sounding as if the drugs had been bought through the media. You can assume that there will be attempts to regulate the Internet”, she believes.
According to Natalya Ligachova, even some bloggers could be accused of being unregistered circulaters of information.
Deputy Head of the Parliamentary Committee on Freedom of Speech, Andriy Shevchenko (BYuT) believes that the most acceptable variant for regulating the situation with Internet publications would be their voluntary registration.
He told the BBC Ukrainian Service that the draft law seems like a clumsy attempt to rein in the Internet community. He adds that no country has been successful in fighting the Internet. “It is more effective to have voluntary registration of Internet publications which will give them the advantages the media have”.
Some experts have a different assessment of the new draft law saying that it needs deeper analysis.
Over recent months monitoring organizations have pointed to a tendency among some Ukrainian media outlets to not circulate information which the regime might not like. The latter has denied that this is because of their interference in the activities of the media.