Parliamentary Commission on Censorship reports on worrying trends
The Chair of the Commission, Iryna Herashchenko reports that in the year of the Commission’s work, it received around 100 complaints from journalists, trade unions and media outlets.
Having analyzed these complaints and the situation with freedom of speech in Ukraine overall, the Commission expressed concern over the following trends:
an increased number of cases where journalists have been obstructed in their work especially by the enforcement bodies;
the impossibility in practice of defending journalists who have suffered while carrying out their work where the law enforcement bodies and courts refuse to initiate or examine cases of obstruction of their journalist activities. Article 171 of the Criminal Code (punishing for this) is virtually not applied;
the lack of progress in the investigation into Vasyl Klymentyev’s disappearance;
lack of transparency in the activities of the National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council;
an increase in cases of economic pressure on the editorial offices by owners and management, first and foremost in the municipal and commercial media with this leading to conflict with staff;
unmotivated dismissals of journalists with a critical approach under the guise of staff redundancies;
the total dependence of the municipal pressure on the local authorities which often view the editorial offices as their property, trying to interfere in their work;
the lack of response from the authorities to criticism by the media.
The Commission has set out these concerns in a report which will be presented to the Verkhovna Rada on Friday, 17 June.
The members of the Commission from the ruling Party of the Regions, Volodymyr Landik and Volodymyr Zubanov supported the report with comments. They stress that the overwhelming majority of the cases set out in the report have not been confirmed. They also assert that the present regime is more effective in investigating the Gongadze case. They also claim that there is more politics than fact in the critical assessment of the situation with freedom of speech.
Members of the opposition factions share the concern expressed by authoritative international institutions and organizations. They assert that the number of cases of rough treatment of journalists by the State Guard, the enforcement structures is on the increase and that there is a growing number of complaints from regional journalists of pressure from the local authorities. They stress also that these cases are not meeting with an adequate response from the law enforcement agencies and the authorities.
The Commission has also drawn up and on 15 June registered two new draft laws aimed at protecting journalists’ rights. No.. 8666 is aimed at preventing restrictions on journalist activities by those under State security, while No. 8667 would make it impossible for the National Broadcasting Council to carry out checks of channels together with the Prosecutor’s office.