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24.09.2012

More infringements of journalists’ rights as elections approach

   

The photo is posted on the Institute for Mass Information sites - the full message reads "Hitler also began with censorship"

The Institute for Mass Information’s monthly monitoring demonstrates a sharp increase in infringements of journalists’ rights and law suits against media publications and individual journalists.

August saw record numbers of cases of censorship or obstruction of journalists doing their work – 16, as well as law suits lodged against journalists or media sources – 10.

The main infringement of journalists’ rights in August was censorship. The figures reflect the number of cases recorded

Arrests, detention                                                               2

Law suits (brought by media or journalists)                          1

Law suits (against media or journalists)                              10

Obstruction of journalists carrying out work,

  Censorship                                                                      16

Economic, political, indirect pressure                                   5

Beatings, assault, intimidation                                               5

IMI notes several trends since the beginning of the election campaign.

1.  The first cases where media publications have been closed until the end of the elections. This involves the use of the courts of Article 74 § 10 of the Law on the Parliamentary Elections (one of the new features of the law) which states that in the case of a repeat infringement or a single but flagrant infringement by a media publication of electoral legislation, the court may suspend its licence or the issue of the publication until the end of the elections.

A court, for example, suspended issue of the Irpin (Kyiv oblast) newspaper Osobysty Pohlyad [Personal View], fully allowing the suit brought against the newspaper by Dmytro Voitsenko, currently both a deputy of the Irpin Council and a parliamentary candidate for single-mandate electoral district No. 65.  The court found that the information published in an article on 3 June was defamatory and untruthful and that the actions of the editorial board were a flagrant violation of the above-mentioned law.  The article talked about leaflets with campaigning against Voitsek which somebody had circulated in Irpin. The leaflets showed the deputy in a Nazi uniform and the text below said that Voitsek had “betrayed the Party of the Regions”. The leaflet was published as an illustration to an article which considered who could have ordered the leaflets and why they should resort to such dirty tactics.

Another newspaper in the Kharkiv oblast – the Zmiyiv Courier is under threat of closure after the Zmiyiv District Court found that it had infringed the Law on the Elections.  The court deemed that it had violated Article 74 § 7 of the Law regarding the rules of advertising and use of the printed press during election campaigns.  This will result in suspension of the newspaper’s registration during the election campaign.

2.  An increase in the number of cases of pressure on journalists and obstruction of their professional activities. One highly publicized and absurd case was that of the intimidation of Luhansk journalist and blogger Maryna Frolova. In her blog Ms Frolova had posted a photo of deputy of the Dnipropetrovsk City Council from the Party of the Regions, Svitlana Yelifantseva in her underwear though Ms Yelifantseva had herself placed the photos on free access on social networks. Yelifantseva threatened to take Frolova to court and demand 1100 USD moral damages. She threatened also that Ms Frolova would have problems since, by publishing the photo, she had put the Party of the Regions to shame.

Volodymyr Borysenko, a deputy of a district council in the Poltava oblast threatened physical measures against a correspondent of the regional newspaper Focus, Serhiy Kiva.  The latter had investigated the situation regarding the lack of central water supplies to the village of Mezhedivka.  Local residents had told the journalist that Borysenko arbitrarily determines whose water will be turned off.  Kiva says that Borysenko was annoyed that his words were recorded, and told him that he would take Kiva and others, throw them into a pit and bury them.

Among cases involving censorship there was an indicative incident regarding the situation with freedom of speech on 8 August. Kateryna Samoilyk, parliamentary candidate from the Communist Party forbid Kherson journalist Tetyana Zhuchenko from being present at an event and filming her meeting with local residents of a village in the Kherson oblast.  Samoilyk said that she would not allow the filming since she was still a deputy and there needed to be a special permit for the filming. In fact, Article 307 of the Civil Code states that no permit is needed for taking photos or videos at a public event. 

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