Freedom of speech issues in the Crimea coming to the fore


The placards say: Stop censorship

Volodymyr Prytula reports that on 24 July the Editor and members of the editorial board of the Simferopo newspaper “Rayonnaya Pravda” stated that they were experiencing pressure from the local authorities.  As reported, similar complaints have been made by journalists from the State TV and Radio company “Krym” [“Crimea”] as well as the private channel Chornomorska.

Mykola Makheyev, founder and Editor of Rayonnaya Pravda, which presents itself as a rural newspaper and is circulated in the Simferopo and Bakhchysarj areas, says that he has no idea why “the local authorities have set upon the newspaper”. He says that the journalists write both good and bad things about officials and do not aim to shame those in power. 

Yet they are under increasing pressure and feel forced to make a public statement about this.

The local authorities, he complains, are behaving inadequately, obstructing them in all kinds of ways, not admitting them to meetings or throwing them out, drawing up administrative offence protocols against their correspondents, putting pressure on people who write for them through pressure on them at their jobs, and pressure on members of their families. Makheyev stresses that all of this is unacceptable.

Recently TV Chornomorska announced that it was experiencing pressure, in particular from the State Tax Administration.  One of the co-owners of the channel is a leader of the United Opposition Andriy Senchenko. Despite the official ban on checks of media before upcoming parliamentary elections, since May Chornomorska has had several unscheduled tax checks.

As reported, scandal broke out in early June after Shevket Ganiev, the Editor and presenter on Crimean Tatar programmes, reported that a repeat of the programme “Khaberler”, news in the Crimean Tatar language, had been removed from air on 7 June because it didn’t give coverage to the President.  He asserted that Humenyuk had said that it was being taken off the air because it didn’t make any mention of President Yanukovych, and that he had earlier threatened to take measures if there wasn’t enough about Yanukovych

Only a month later a journalist from the Ukrainian language radio programme “Two Colours” handed in her resignation after the programme scheduled for 13 July was removed. The author of the programme, Alla Petrova says that it was about a banned protest in defence of the Ukrainian language. She says that she has handed in her resignation in protest over this and other pressure and censorship recently. She has worked for Crimean radio for 20 years and is the author of a number of Ukrainian language programmes on radio and TV, as well as the weekly programme “Two Colours”.

Despite the fact that the Acting Director Stepan Hulevaty said that he planned to look into the situation, he did not meet with Alla Petrova and hear her complaints and without the legally required two week period, dismissed here.

The Deputy Head of the Permanent Committee of the Crimean Parliament for Public Relations, Yukhim Fix, who represents the ruling Party of the Regions, denies any systemic nature of freedom of speech and press infringements in the Crimea. He has also promised “to look into each case”.

New information and the photo from Radio Svoboda

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