TV Chornomorska asks Chancellor Merkel for help


The Crimean television and radio broadcasting company Chornomorska which is one of the most popular TV channels in the Crimea and considered the main media resource of the Crimean opposition is, after several months of checks by the Tax Inspectorate, the seizure of its assets and accounts, experiencing new difficulties. The effective owner of the channel, Head of the Crimean branch of the Batkivshchyna [Motherland] Party and National Deputy from BYuT, Andriy Senchenko, has told the BBC that the Tax Inspectorate is continuing to remove documents and tried to take television cameras away. He says that after information about this appeared in the media, the tax police presumably received a different order and began removing documents. He says that there are already rumours that they’re planning to remove the channel’s licence, and that this prompted the company’s staff to turn to the international community, including to Germany’s Chancellor Merkel. They asked her to intervene and impress upon Mr Yanukovych during his visit that an end must be put to political repression and freedom of speech defended. They assert that the authorities are trying to make them choose between full subordination or closure of the channel.  They also call on the Chancellor to notice what is going on with TVi and Channel 5 who are fighting for the return of their frequencies (the appeal was clearly made before today’s ruling).

After prolonged silence on the subject, the Head of the State Tax Inspectorate Oleksandr Papaika stated that “the Tax Administration has not arrested anybody or anything”.

Mr Senchenko in his turn says that Mr Papaika is not telling the truth, and that if nothing is resolved soon with regard to the accounts, the channel will declare a strike.

The BBC quotes the Deputy Head of the President’s Administration, Anna Herman who recently told Kommersant – Ukraine newspaper that constant allegations about censorship were convenient for the opposition. She claimed that there were no infringements of freedom of speech. It then quotes Iryna Heraschenko from “Our Ukraine” who disagrees and asserts that the authorities are using Chornomorska as an example of how they will deal with media outlets which do not show loyalty.

At present the Chornomorska team are trying to carry on their work as normal.

Other businesses owned by Mr Senchenko also endorsed the appeal to Chancellor Merkel, and assert that their work is almost paralyzed through endless checks by the law enforcement bodies and regulatory agencies.

Slightly abridged from the report here:

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