Ukrainian Internet Community create Self-Regulating Body



Internet publications will from now on work according to rules they themselves established. An independent self-regulating body called the Information Initiative on Freedom of Speech Protection Issues has been created. It was announced at a press conference on 19 July that a number of civic organizations and Internet publications have signed a Memorandum on the creation of this body and defining the principles for the functioning of Internet media. 

Signatories include the Internet Association of Ukraine; the Ukrainian Association of Periodic Press Publishers; the Independent Association of Television and Radio Broadcasters; the Ukrainian Press Academy; the Institute for Mass Information; the East European Institute for Media Issues; Ukrainska Pravda; Telekritika; SoftPres; and InternetUA. They hope that other Internet media will join them.

The members of the Information Initiative have committed themselves to observe journalist ethical principles developed over generations. These include: adherence to balance in coverage and clear differentiation between expert commentary and information which has advertising elements from editorial material; the inadmissibility of falsifying documents, of encouraging discrimination, of plagiarism, or publishing knowingly false information or accepting bribes.

Regulations for the Community of Professional Electronic Media Outlets were also presented. These set out the professional standards, principles and requirements for electronic media, as well as the system for considering complaints regarding content.  The Regulations will regulate issues of authors’ rights on the Internet.

The Regulations envisage that at first over the next year the functions of arbiter in considering complaints about infringements will be carried out by the Information Initiative on Freedom of Speech Protection Issues. According to Ellina Shnurko-Tabakova from the Internet Association of Ukraine “This working group will consider complaints and take decisions as to whether measures should be taken against offenders. Such measures could be: public warning; temporary suspension from the Community of Professional Electronic Media for three months or expulsion from the Community”,  She is convinced that public warnings will have a market force since there will be less public trust in web resources which do not observe the rules.

According to the Head of the Internet Association of Ukraine Board Tetyana Popova, the creation of the information initiative was prompted by concern among Internet users at the wish of the State to regulate the Internet. “Such attempts in our country most often fizzle out. The Internet as a special milieu cannot be the object of regulation or that which regulates. The subject of regulation is the legal relations between operators and providers. Everything that concerns the passing of information or provision of services is already regulated by legislation. Legal relations linked with the Internet are of a trans-border nature and therefore regulation should be carried out bearing international practice in mind”.  She added that the structure of the Internet envisages a decentralized form of management and therefore most problems need to be resolved via self-regulation.

The Executive Director of the Institute for Mass Information, Victoria Syumar gave examples suggesting that the State is planning to control the work of Internet publications. These included the response to apparent threats against National Deputy Inna Bohoslovska (leading to interrogation of two of the main people on the independent and critical outlet Ukrainska Pravda – see Threats against a Deputy or against Ukrainska Pravda?  as well as interference in the work of the website OstroV   Ms Syumar is also perturbed by the proposal by the same Deputy Inna Bohoslovska to write a law on regulation of the Internet. “There are no good laws on regulating the Internet in the world, but rather bad examples like Turkey, Kazakhstan, Belarus and others”.

Ms Syumar is convinced that the most progressive experience is in self-regulation when the Internet publications themselves develop rules which they commit themselves to follow. She says that her Institute for Mass Information has received orders from several Internet publications to create a self-governing platform. “A resource has been created on the IMI site where Internet publications can declare their principles of editorial policy, the owner of the domain, provide information about themselves and take on the commitment to not infringe editorial rules and the joint regulations. If there are complaints about registered publications, it will be the Community and not the State that takes the responsibility of getting to the bottom of the complaint and applying certain measures about a particular outlet.  This will be carried out as part of the Information Initiative on Freedom of Speech Protection Issues.

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