Yanukovych’s "examples of censorship"



Once again, this time in response to being named Enemy of the Press No. 1, President Yanukovych has asked for “specific violations of freedom of speech”. Journalists reply that he need only watch television.

Viktor Yanukovych stated that he wants honest and professional conversations with journalists. He acknowledged that it is journalists themselves who can judge whether or not there are violations in the area of freedom of speech. As he has before, he demanded “specific examples” and promised to “take measures” if pressure from the authorities was proved.

Prominent journalist and member of the civic movement Stop Censorship, Yehor Sobolyev told Deutsche Welle that the President can see proof of censorship on the State-owned First National TV [UTV 1) channel every day. The news on this channel now contains no material critical of the government and does not report any protests against government policy either from the opposition or from members of the public.

Sobolyev cited as a flagrant case of censorship the direct ban on coverage on UTV 1 of the mass protests known as the Tax Code Maidan [the protesters converged in their thousands on Maidan Nezalezhnosti, or Independence Square in late November last year in protest at the new draft Tax Code – translator). He said that all journalists who then expressed protest against the infringement of their rights to carry out their professional activities  had now lost their jobs.  The others are forced not only to accept censorship, but also to resort to self-censorship out of fear of losing their means of subsistence.

According to the Head of the Boarding of Internews Ukraine, Kostyantyn Kvurt, the regimes tries not to leave direct proof of its pressure on the media.  There are no longer the “temnyky” used during Kuchma’s time, where journalists were effectively told what to cover and how, and what to not touch. Systematic pressure is now put on journalists through the owners and managers of media outlets whose business depends on the regime.

The Head of the Equal Opportunities Committee, Oleksandr Chekmyshev considers Yanukovych personally responsible for this situation. He points out that the activities of all branches and levels of power are presently “strictly coordinated” and headed by the President. There are no grounds for talking of any differences of views among those in power. 

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