UHHRU Statement regarding Censorship at UNIAN
The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union is concerned over the encroachment on freedom of speech at the website of the UNIAN information agency.
During the 19 years of its existence, UNIAN has become one of the most influential and authoritative information providers in Ukraine. UNIAN reports are quoted by hundreds of Ukrainian and foreign media sources, while the www.unian.net site gets hundreds of thousands of readers each day. The agency’s team achieved such an audience and reputation through its impartiality, efficient work over many years and its adherence to journalist standards. We would particularly note the agency’s role in affirming the rule of law and defending human rights in Ukraine – over 5 years, from 2007 to 2012, UNIAN ran a special information project entitled “Human Rights”.
It is regrettable that at present all these achievements may be negated through the imposition of censorship. We refer to the controversial staff changes in the agencies and dismissal of the Chief Editor Oleksandr Kharchenko who had worked at UNIAN for many years and the appointment of a new managerial team, people from the 1 + 1 group (Mykola Kondratenko, Vadim Osadchy and Mykhailo Hannytsky) (see http://khpg.org/index.php?id=1337280813)
This has resulted in numerous reports from the agency’s journalists and editors about attempts to put pressure and impose censorship from the new management and the introduction of fines for publishing “inconvenient” topics. (http://khpg.org/index.php?id=1351362699)
The editors assert that the new management not only banned negative reports about President Yanukovych, but also about the leader of the Communist Party Petro Symonenko, as well as ordering increased coverage of the election campaign of candidate Oleksandr Tretyakov. A taboo, furthermore, has been imposed on the names of three opposition single-mandate electoral district candidates (Doniy; Aryev and Bryhynets).
Such examples of censorship in the UNAN agency which is owned by Ihor Kolomoisky are of particular concern given the sad fate of other media sources owned by his media holding, for example the treatment of Gazeta po-kievski” (see: On the Measures against Gazeta po-kievski and the destruction of the City TV channel which was the only Kyiv TV channel providing objective news.
We call on UNIAN’s owner, Ihor Kolomoisky to stop the destruction of UNIAN, to carry out an internal investigation and dismiss those involved in attempts to impose censorship.
We would point out that the mass media is nobody’s puppet. It is the public’s achievement and the public are entitled to receive free and varied information. Without this right Ukraine is doomed to descend into authoritarianism.
The imposition of elements of censorship is incompatible with democratic values and inexcusable.
According to international standards, the onus is on media owners to not interfere in the editorial police of a publication and individual journalists and they should introduce such procedure for publishing journalists’ information as precludes censorship.
In accordance with international human rights standards a country is obliged to provide legislative guarantees against censorship of the media by, for example, introducing various procedure for preventing censorship by the media owners or management. The state must guarantee journalists the opportunity to retain their editorial independence. The state must prepare a mechanism for intervening in such a situation since censorship poses a threat to society as a whole and is not an internal corporate conflict.
Head of the UHHRU Board
UHHRU Executive Director