OSCE expresses concerns over recent trends in Ukraine
OSCE media freedom representative: Ukraine should take swift and resolute measures to entrench its exemplary record in media pluralism
Ukraine has achieved a great level of media freedom but it must take urgent steps to safeguard it, Dunja Mijatovic, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, said today.
Mijatovic, speaking at the end of a visit following an open invitation from President Victor Yanukovych, welcomed the Ukrainian authorities’ openness and readiness for dialogue on a highest level, saying it was clear that media freedom remains priority on the country’s political agenda.
She commended the determined public calls of the authorities to preserve media freedom, but cautioned that results were lacking and that recent cases of violence and intimidation of journalists, including the 11 August disappearance of Novy Styl reporter Vasyl Klymentiev and a growing number of physical attacks against journalists, have a chilling effect on the media climate.
"Concrete action is needed before the current negative developments become a permanent indicator of the deteriorated media climate in the country," said Mijatovic.
"To restore the trust of the Ukrainian society and of the international community, the authorities should continue to publicly condemn and, more importantly, swiftly investigate all cases of violence and intimidation of journalists, giving priority to the case of Klymentiev, who is still missing."
She welcomed the reopening of the investigation into death in 2000 of journalist Georgiy Gongadze, saying he, his family and colleagues deserved justice: "Ensuring the safety of media workers should be a priority task of the government of Ukraine," Mijatovic said
Commenting recent reports by respected national and international watchdogs and international organisations, she called on the government "to refrain from any attempt to influence or censor media content to comply with their international media freedom standards and OSCE media freedom commitments."
Mijatovic discussed the urgent need for legal reform, welcoming a recent concept for Public Service Broadcasting in Ukraine and greeted assurances that a legal framework needed to establish a public service broadcaster would be concluded by the end of the year.
"A viable, politically and financially independent public service broadcaster is the only safeguard for broadcasting pluralism," said Mijatovic.
She also urged Parliament to adopt an access-to-information law during its current session. "Ukraine remains one of very few European states without comprehensive access-to-information legislation. The tabled draft has all the provisions needed to ensure access to government-held information, and I hope it will be enacted next week," said Mijatovic.
Laws on transparency of ownership and privatization of state print media are also needed, she said: "Lack of transparency of media ownership raises questions about affiliation of media with political or business groups. State-owned media are inheritance of the past and should be privatized or liquidated."
She also called on lawmakers to amend the Law on TV and Radio Broadcasting to ensure the political and financial independence of the media regulator, the National TV and Radio Broadcasting Council.
Mijatovic said her Office would continue to closely monitor the developments in Ukraine and offered its continued support and expertise in promoting media freedom.
The Representative’s conclusions and recommendations came at the end of a two-day visit that included meetings with Parliament Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn; Foreign Minister Konstyantyn Gryshchenko; Hanna Herman, Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration; Andriy Shevchenko, Head of the Parliamentary Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information, and other top officials as well as media and civil society representatives.