Stop Censorship warns Yanukovych of threats to freedom of speech


The civic movement Stop Censorship has issued a statement urging President Yanukovych to give his attention to cases which place freedom of expression in jeopardy in Ukraine.

They point out that the situation in the information sphere has worsened radically during the period from 2010 to 2011, largely because of actions by the authorities. Examples mentioned include the use of Special Force Berkut officers against journalists during the trial of Yulia Tymoshenko last week and the search of the editorial office of the newspaper Glavnoye in Kharkiv.  They express concern also over the criminal investigation over supposed murder threats against National Deputy Inna Bohoslovska, used as grounds for intensive interrogation of leading figures from the Internet publication Ukrainska Pravda.

“On 6 July in the Pechersky District Court Ministry of Internal Affairs Special Force Berkut officers used force against representatives of the media who were covering the Tymoshenko trial.

On 7 July Special Force Berkut officers blocked the work of the Kharkiv publication Glavnoye in connection with a search of their premises, preventing journalists from even leaving the place.

On 25 June the Kyiv MIA CID used a far-fetched pretext to initiate a criminal investigation under the article of the Criminal Code on murder threats aimed at National Deputy Inna Bohoslovsa, resulting in the threat that the servers of the two most popular Internet publications – Ukrainska Pravda and Korrespondent will be blocked.

There is also a serious threat to the work of the Internet Publication OstroV with respect to which the police have asked for access to their servers as part of a criminal investigation into a case initiated by National Deputy Yury Ivanyushenko.

This is a by no means full list of events which have taken place over recent weeks.

The greatest achievement of the government over the last year was its participation in adopting the Law on Access to Public Information. Yet today, two months after the law came into force, we are forced to acknowledge that journalists receive fob-off replies to their information requests or have them turned down with a variety of pretexts given”.

They call on the President to:

- guarantee that enforcement bodies respect journalists’ inviolability in carrying out their work;

- promote the holding of an open trial of Oleksy Pukach, charged with the murder of Georgy Gongadze;

- ensure real, not merely declarative, implementation of the Law on Access to Public Information;

- promote transparency of the authorities in Ukraine, reinstating the practice of your predecessors regarding open quarterly Presidential press conferences;

- introduce rotation of the journalist pool maintained through public funding so that the public can be sure that the information they receive about your foreign visits is unbiased;

- promoted reform of the Ukrainian media, ensuring the creation of a public broadcasting system;

- draw up and submit a draft law on transparency of media ownership;

- publicly express your position regarding the disparity between coverage by television channels of the activities of the government and of the opposition, in the government’s favour;

- appoint as member of the National Broadcasting Council, from the President’s quota, a candidate put forward by the public and supported by Stop Censorship;

- guarantee observance of media legislation regarding the powers of editorial councils in media outlets.

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