ARTICLE 19 Ukraine: How to know who owns your media
In response to growing concerns about lack of transparency of media ownership, ARTICLE 19 today launched a policy paper, titled Transparency of Media Ownership of Off-Shore Companies in Ukraine: Problems and Solutions. The policy paper describes the impediments for transparency of media ownership in Ukraine and outlines a set of principles to regulate media ownership by off-shore companies. The paper also warns that if the state does not call for greater transparency, there is a risk of excessive media concentration, lack of media pluralism and a lack of clarity about who influences the media, which in turn prevents media consumers from shaping judgement as to the value of information, ideas and opinion disseminated by the media.
“Media pluralism is one of the basic conditions of the right to freedom of expression and freedom of information. The full transparency of media groups and their owners lies at the heart of modern media pluralism, ” comments Dr Agnes Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19.
“Without transparency of media ownership it would be impossible to take steps to address excessive media concentration and to form an opinion on the value of information disseminated by the media, ” continued Dr Callamard.
ARTICLE 19 finds there are two main reasons for the lack of transparency: the companies which own media outlets are under no obligation to disclose the identity of their physical owners. Moreover, some media, especially broadcast media, are owned by companies registered in off-shore zones, mainly in Cyprus, and their ownership is shrouded by off-shore confidentiality laws.
The issue lies with legislation in off-shore zones, which not only provides companies with tax benefits but also protects the confidentiality of their physical owners. As a result, Ukrainians do not know who the physical owners of the media companies are and cannot form an opinion on the information disseminated by the latter. Moreover, this lack of transparency raises questions about the affiliation of media groups with political and business groups, in Central and Eastern Europe as a whole.
The fall of totalitarian regimes and the privatisation of media in Central and Eastern Europe in 1990s brought an end to state control of information. Media pluralism became a reality with the establishment of new private media. However, twenty years later, the state of media pluralism in this part of Europe remains influenced by the political and economic conditions of the period of transformation to democratisation and market economy.
To address these issues, ARTICLE 19s policy paper examines the legal models for regulating the transparency of media ownership by off-shore companies and proposes principles for respective regulation of the subject.
For More Information
Policy paper, Transparency of Media Ownership of Off-Shore Companies in Ukraine: Problems and Solutions, is available at: http://www.article19.org/resources.php/resource/2727/
The Policy Paper has been commissioned by International Media Support (IMS) and is part of a joint IMS and ARTICLE 19 project supporting media development in Ukraine.
ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works globally to protect and promote the right to Freedom of Expression. It takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees free speech. For more information on ARTICLE 19 please visit www.article19.org
International Media Support (IMS) is a non-profit organisation working with media in countries affected by armed conflict, human insecurity and political transition. In more than 30 countries worldwide, IMS helps to strengthen professional practices and ensure that media and media workers can operate under challenging circumstances. This statement is issued within the framework of the IMS Media and Democracy Programme for Central and Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. For more information