By tacit consent the Morality Commission has resumed its work



As reported, on 12 May 2011 only 12 Deputies voted for Draft Law No. 6532 which proposed amendments cancelling the Law on the Protection of Public Morality and the dissolution of the National Expert Commission for the Protection of Public Morality.  Despite the President’s decree from 9 December 2010 Bodies which envisaged dissolution of the Commission and the fact that the draft Law had been supported at its first reading, the draft law was not supported by any members of the Party of the Regions, the Communist Party or the Party of Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn (these making up the ruling majority).

Not only did most of the deputies simply not vote, but one of the draft law’s co-authors, Pavlo Movchan, now refused to vote for what he had himself helped to formulate.

“The fact is that we can dissolve by adopting this law the Commission for the Protection of Public Morality. We know what it’s being done for, so that there’ll be no control on television screens, in the pressure, in all that can be copied in bulk pertaining to pornography and all other perversions”, he now says.

It is interesting that the second reading had been scheduled for 21 April yet instead of a discussion of the draft law, on that day there was a meeting between Viktor Yanukovych and the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations. Since the Council has stated its opposition to the dissolution of the Commission very emphatically, one can assume that this was discussed.  The Council has not just opposed the abolition of the Law on the Protection of Public Morality and the Morality Commission, but has called for control to be increased.

The Council stresses what it sees as the public nature of the Morality Commission’s work, and says that this is because it is made up of various figures from the arts, experts and civic figures who work on a voluntary basis.  They stress that it is only the Head of the Commission and his Office which receive salaries.

It is worth mentioning that 4 million 768 thousand UAH was allocated for the work of the Morality Commission in 2010.

It is also not at all clear how the members of the Commission are chosen and by what criteria.

The NGO Postup points out that the failure by parliament to revoke the Law on the Protection of Public Morality and dissolve the Commission runs counter to recommendations from the Council of Europe and the demands of many civic and cultural figures in Ukraine who stress that the Law restricts freedom of expression and is seriously flawed.  One of the main problems is that the terms and general wording is so woolly as to make it virtually impossible to understand what is within the law and what is in breach.  This in turn is very convenient for the authorities when they can effectively apply or not apply it at their own discretion.

The Civic Campaign against Censorship in the Media and Works of Art, run by the Postup Human Rights Centre together with the Helsinki Human Rights Foundation in Warsaw, raised a large number of signatures in support of speeding up the process of abolishing both the Law and the Morality Commission.

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