On the Failure to agree a moratorium on media checks
Civic organizations want to add amendments to the draft law on the parliamentary elections which would guarantee independent coverage of the elections.
During a conference entitled “Will the media be able to criticize the government during the 2012 elections?” on 30 September, MP Iryna Herashchenko [Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defence] expressed the view that journalists were also responsible, together with the present regime, for the rejection of draft Law No. 7872 proposing a moratorium on checks of the media during the election campaign.
“I was surprised by the position taken by the pro-government faction which did not vote for the draft law since the text was effectively copied from the resolution which parliament has adopted before each election. What is more, there were representatives of almost all factions among the bill’s authors. The authors had agreed to rework the draft law between the first and second reading, taking all comments into account. Yet the majority did not even support it at its first reading”.
Ms Herashchenko believes that journalists must also take a share of the blame since most of them do not show any interest in issues relating to censorship. “Journalists will think of it when the election campaign begins, and problems arise”.
With regard to equal access of candidates to the media during the elections, Ms Herashchenko expressed the view that elected deputies don’t have such access now.
The conference participants discussed the draft law on the parliamentary elections due to be registered and considered by the Verkhovna Rada in the near future.
The lawyers and journalists present identified a number of problematic norms regulating media activities during the elections. They consider that provisions should be added banning checks on media outlets not only during the elections, but also after them. For example, Tetyana Kotyuzhynska, lawyer for the National Union of Journalists considers that no checks linked with the elections should be allowed in the six months after they have taken place. Checks are needed only in cases where there is a case established by a court of infringements of electoral legislation.
Ms Kotyuzhynska would also suggest adding norms to the law on the parliamentary elections regarding access to public information, or making reference to the Public Information Act.
According to Ludmila Ohryshko, lawyer from the Regional Press Development Institute, the right to respond in the media should be replaced by the right of retraction since usually a response is given by a candidate to value judgements which he or she considers inaccurate. The right to retraction makes it possible to demand that they retract what is factually incorrect, not that which the candidate considers untrue.
There were also proposals to make the article on election campaigning clearer and others.
The conference participants decided to send all agreed proposals to the President, the Justice Ministry, and parliament asking them to support supplementing the draft law on the parliamentary elections with norms which will guarantee independent coverage of the 2012 parliamentary elections.
As reported, on 23 September the Verkhovna Rada rejected draft Law No. 2782 on amendments to laws which would make it impossible for checks to be carried out on media outlets during the election campaign. The Party of the Regions and Communists refused to support it..