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31.05.2011

Any number of examples of censorship, Mr President

   

 

Ihor Lubchenko, Head of the Ukrainian National Union of Journalists has addressed an open letter to President Yanukovych in response to the latter’s words on World Press Freedom Day asking for specific examples of violations of freedom of speech and promising to react to them.

 Ihor Lubchenko points out that they have tried to get through to the President regarding burning issues for journalists on many occasions, but unfortunately have seen little progress.

He cites the following specific examples, beginning with the most recent.

18 May 2011

The provider Volya stopped broadcasting the popular Cherkasy independent TV channel “Antenna-plus”.

The provider, which has the monopoly on the local cable network market gave no warning, and had no justification since Antenna-Plus’ licence runs until 2016.

Numerous appeals from viewers have elicited statements to the effect that Antenna-Plus is being changed to digital format. Volya has refused to speak with representatives of the television channel. Ihor Lubchenko says that it is clear why not, since the change to digital format effectively deprives tens of thousands of viewers in Cherkasy of the opportunity to receive information and watch an independent broadcaster.  This is, he points out, the only independent television channel in the region.

Over many years Antenna Plus had remained free and critical of any regime. It had succeeded in retaining its freedom of speech under Kuchma and Yushchenko.

“After the appointment as Head of the Regional Administration of Serhiy Tulub, a new wave of pressure and repression began. Attempts at seizures of media outlets, threats by those who wield power in the area and from the enforcement structures, pressure on the cable network provider to stop broadcast of the television channel, threats to advisers and press distributors were just some of the methods in the new information policy in the region.

This is the first case which I would draw your attention to”.

Two:  the dismissal, at the insistence of the same Head of the Regional Administration of Serhiy Tulub, from his post as General Director of the regional State TV and radio broadcasting company, M. Kalinichenko.

Three:  The extremely fraught situation between the editorial official of a district newspaper Kolos and district radio in the Kharkiv region, provoked by the head of the District Council, V. Pryadko.  This began last summer with procedure initiated by the District Council to have the editorial office, as legal entity, dissolved.

It is not clear what the motives are but the same Council as lodged a law suit trying to get the editorial office’s charter and founding agreement declared void.

Four  The newspaper Vpered in the Odessa region has had problems since the District Council in March 2008 dismissed the Editor, Tetyana Khamardyuk.

She did not accept her dismissal, and in January 2011 a court reinstated her. 

However the District Council in this case has also appointed a liquidation committee, as well as more overtly unlawful methods such as claiming that the newspaper’s stamp, in the possession of the newly reinstated Editor, had been “stolen”.

Five:  The dismissal of Volodymyr Hlyadchenko from his post as Director of the Nikolsk cooperative TV and Radio Company [TRC] Pivdenna Zorya [Southern Star].  The author gives a whole list of breaches over which Hlyadchenko’s colleagues in the Dnipropetrovsk region are up in arms.

Six: In Slavutya, Khmelnytski region, the Mayor, Vasyl Sydor has for several years now been making the situation for the editorial board of the municipal newspaper intolerable. The newspaper’s Editor Vira Malchuk has won 17 law suits, but the Mayor is still trying to get her removed.

Seven:  From the outset the newly elected Bilopilsk District Council in the Sumy region and the Head of the Council, V. Kubrak have been putting pressure on the newspaper Bilopilshchyna and especially its editor. 

Kubrak has given unlawful instructions for audits to be carried out, with the Prosecutor being drawn in.  This was despite a court ruling stating that the newspaper is not under the jurisdiction of the control and audit authority. The first attempt at such an audit was during the Chief Editor’s official leave which was known by the head of the said authority.

This extraordinary saga with checks has been played out despite the fact that the editorial office agrees all its expenses etc with the co-founders, regular reports to the finance department of the District Administration. It has no debts and over the last three years has received no public funding.

Ihor Lubchenko cites three more examples, also from local media outlets.  He gives details which suggest interference from the local authorities, most often on outlets or journalists demonstrating an independent position.

He turns again to President Yanukovych and says that he understands that in Kyiv it’s hard to follow what is happening in other cities and regional centres. “Yet are the processes taking place in the capital really also invisible?

Звичайно, з Києва важко спостерігати, що робиться у містах і районних центрах. Але ж невже і процеси, які відбуваються у столиці, теж невидимі?

Case No. Eleven:  Back on 15 March last year the former Deputy Head of your Administration, Anna Herman in an interview regarding the appointment of new heads of the State media sector when asked whether a change was planned to the Head of the National Radio Company replied:

“We are thinking about this at the moment. When Mr Nabrusko term ends, I think we will make changes in this direction.” 

Ihor Lubchenko’s approaches to Herman in this matter were ignored. Mr Nabrusko’s contract was not renewed in June 2010 even though his appointment was indefinite, with the five-year terms of the contract simply renewed.

There were evident infringements of the law and the Union has defended Mr Nabruskos’s rights ever since.  Despite numerous appeals, including to the President, this has been to no avail.  However, because they received assurances that the situation would be rectified, the term for appealing the dismissal with the court was missed.

The Union’s Secretary turned to the President over this and received no response.

Ihor Lubchenko concludes by stressing that these are by no means all the cases involving pressure and infringements of media outlets’ and journalists’ rights.  There are many more.

“If you are ready to hear 18 thousand members of the Union, the Secretaries of the National Union of Journalists are ready to meet with you to discuss the situation in more detail”.

Very heavily abridged from the original posted on Telekritika

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