Yet another attempt to put clamps on freedom of expression?


The Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Freedom of Speech, Deputy from BYUT, Andriy Shevchenko warns that the Verkhovna Rada is due to consider draft law 6603 on amendments aimed at “improving the system of State registration of information agencies”. Behind the innocent name, he says, lies an initiative from Azarov’s government which could soon radically change the life of Internet publications and bloggers.

The draft law introduces fines for “unregistered information agencies”. This is when, according to the present law on information agencies, any body involved in “gathering, processing, creating, storing and preparing information for making more widely known, publication or circulation” can be considered an information agency.

Andriy Shevchenko suggests that in practice this could lead to a person from the Tax Department or Ministry of Justice turning up at “Ukrainska Pravda” or the blogger Olena Bilozerska and informing them that they consider them to be information agencies and must pay a fine for not registering.

On Tuesday parliament is also due to consider draft law No. 7111 on improving State or municipal printed media outlets.  This is the initiative of the Ministry of Justice and according to Shevchenko must have chosen the name with irony since it is anything but an improvement, making the procedure for registration of newspapers and journals more difficult.

The laws he said were put together over almost a year. Why they’ve been pushed now, 3 days before the holidays, he says he hasn’t been able to establish. Both draft laws were rejected by his Committee on Freedom of Speech.  To their credit, deputies from both the ruling majority and the opposition voted against it.

Andriy Shevchenko ends his blog entry with a P.S. – that the two draft laws have disappeared from Tuesday’s agenda.  While approving this rare demonstration of commonsense, he stresses that the Cabinet of Ministers  must withdraw the draft laws. 

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