UHHRU Open Appeal over Amendments to the Public Morality Act
To the members of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information
The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union would ask you to recommend that the Verkhovna Rada reject draft bill No. 7132 On amendments to the Law on the Protection of Public Morality and send it back for a repeat second reading. Our reasons are as follows.
In its present form this draft law is in breach of provisions of Ukraine’s Constitution, restricts human rights and freedoms, introduces censorship of the Internet and obliges providers without even a court order to block content which the National Commission for the Protection of Public Morality may consider harmful to public morality. According to the draft law, even foreign websites can be blocked, for example, for “obscene and foul language” (there is no definition of this in the draft law, or in any current legislation). In addition, this draft law envisages significant expenditure from the State Budget, aimed effectively at imposing censorship in Ukraine. We would also like to draw your attention to the extremely negative reaction to this draft bill in the press and society.
The draft law does not meet the criteria of quality for legislation; it does not contain clear and unambiguous definitions and wording. It does not enable Ukrainian citizens to anticipate the results of their actions, places Ukraine in danger of violating its human rights obligations and will have an extremely negative impact both on Ukrainian society and on Ukraine’s standing in the world. Criminal prosecution of owners and editors of publications on the basis of conclusions of the National Morality Commission created on the basis of the said law; ban on the sale of publications and literary works; pan on the sale of music clips, cartoons and films – these are examples of disproportionate interference by the Ukrainian authorities in freedom of expression. This is in breach of Ukraine’s legislation and the standards of the European Convention on Human Rights established by the European Court of Human Rights.
Arkady Bushchenko Yevhen Zakharov
UHHRU Executive Director Head of the UHHRU Board