IMI: 2012 record-breakingly awful for journalists
In a brief report to mark World Press Freedom Day, the Institute for Mass Information writes that 2012 saw a record 324 recorded violations of journalists’ rights, with this being the largest number over the last 10 years. IMI links this directly with the impunity of the authorities and political figures who apply all possible means of pressure, even physical force in order to prevent journalists from honestly and conscientiously carrying out their professional duties.
The most flagrant demonstration in 2012 was the draft libel law tabled by Party of the Regions MP Vitaly Zhuravsky (himself a member of the National Union of Journalists).
Besides this, the 2012 parliamentary elections (the election campaign and the period when the results were being established) showed that Ukraine’s political players, especially those who have the support of the regime, have total contempt for the right journalists have to receive and circulate information of importance to society. At the same time they corrupt the editors of publications by placing commissioned material purporting to be news stories.
IMI notes that even during the 2004 Presidential campaign and the Orange Revolution, there wasn’t such lawlessness in treatment of the media.
The shocking statistics in 2012:
324 violations of journalists’ rights;
6 arrests; detentions;
40 beatings, assaults, acts of intimidation;
180 cases of censorship; obstruction of journalists when carrying out their duties;
43 cases of economic; political or indirect pressure;
50 law suits against media publications or journalists;
5 civil suits from media publications and journalists
2012 saw a heightening of censorship in national and local publications; monitoring shows systematic one-sided coverage of events in the media with issues of public importance which are inconvenient to those in power being muffled.
In October scandal rocked the UNIAN information agency with editors accusing management of censorship
There were also a number of resignations, including from the national TV channel STB with journalists citing censorship as the reason.
2012 saw continued monopolization of the media by people close to those in power, and increasing tabloidization of television broadcasting.
IMI mentions previous cases of pressure on the then still independent TVi channel including pressure from the tax authorities and removal from air in many cities:
See http://khpg.org/index.php?id=1348611370 and the links below
A sharp increase in the number of violations of journalists’ rights was seen in the run-up to the parliamentary elections.
There were 39 such cases in August;
60 in September
85 in October
Most were directly linked with the elections or caused by candidates and or MPs.
Journalists were not admitted to meetings of candidates with voters; or not allowed to take photos or videos; or there were attempts to bring pressure on journalists. There were a good few cases where physical force was used.
Indirect pressure was also applied through searches to editorial offices; unscheduled visits from tax inspectors despite the moratorium agreed before the elections; powerful DDoS attacks blocking Internet publications; numerous law suits.
In 2012 for the first time journalists experience “trolling attacks” with their mobile telephones being blocked through calls coming from many telephone numbers.
One slightly more positive record was the fact that 6 cases were actually initiated under Article 171 of the Criminal Code (obstructing a journalist carrying out his or her professional duties).
On average only 5% of those who violate journalists’ rights are held to answer.
The amounts demanded in defamation suits increased as had been feared following the disastrous revoking of a differentiated scale of court duty (making it possible now to demand millions while paying a pitifully small amount in court duty).
2012 saw a serious attempt to re-criminalize libel
See http://khpg.org/index.php?id=1349205683 and the texts below
For a new and certainly no less dangerous move in that direction, see http://khpg.org/index.php?id=1364178250
Slightly abridged from the report here http://imi.org.ua/analytics/40730-svoboda-slova-v-ukrajini-u-2012-rotsi-korotkiy-zvit-do-vsesvitnogo-dnya-svobodi-presi.html