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2003

Freedom of Expression in Ukraine

General problems

08.04.2004

On 26 May the draft of the law “On the introduction of changes to the Civil and Civil-Procedural Codes (on the right for information)” prepared by MPs Mykola Tomenko, Yuri Artemenko, Sergiy Gmyria and Eduard Matviychuk was presented to the Supreme Rada of Ukraine

   

M. Tomenko, the head of the Committee in charge of the freedom of speech and information, points out that the necessity of introducing changes into the Civil Code of Ukraine, which will come into effect on 1 January 2004, is caused by the adoption by the Supreme Rada in April 2003 of the Law of Ukraine “On the introduction of changes to some legal acts of Ukraine concerning the questions of guaranteeing and unhampered realization of citizens’ right for the freedom of speech” and by certain contradictions between the laws on information and the norms of the code concerning the right for information.

For instance, part 3 of Article 277 of the newly approved Civil Code of Ukraine reads: “any negative information spread about a person is regarded as false”. This provision may be interpreted ambiguously and will essentially complicate the practical application of the norms of the Code. It will noticeably restrict the right of citizens for spreading information. Such concepts of the Civil Code as “inviolability” of business reputation, private life, etc. would impede the society to obtain the needed information. So, it is proposed to make this norm more accurate and applicable, says M. Tomenko.

Besides, part 4 of Article 296 of the Civil Code “The right for using a name” incorrectly prohibits the use of the name of a person, which was detained, is suspected or accused of a crime, as well as the name of a person, which committed an administrative offence. According to this article, “… the name of a person, which was detained, or which is suspected or accused of some crime, may not be used (published) until the court verdict about his/her guilt comes into effect”. In the opinion of Tomenko, this norm essentially restricts the constitutional right for spreading information. Moreover, concealment of the facts of detention or accusation of some persons can inflict damage to these persons in case of the ungrounded accusation. According to the principle of the presumption of innocence, which is stipulated by the Ukrainian Constitution, Criminal-Procedural Code of Ukraine and a number of other normative acts, this norm seems to be superfluous.

Besides, Tomenko reckons that the norm stated in part 3 of this Article (“The information presented by an official in the framework of his service duties is authentic”) may not be regarded as correct. This norm may be considered as a certain pardon for the officials, and the application of this norm will cause the substantial collisions.

Yet, Tomenko points out that the new Civil Code will come into force only on 1 January 2004. Thus, the legislators have some time for the liquidation of drawbacks of the law by approving the changes proposed by MPs.

Tomenko hopes that the new Civil Code, which will operate since January 2004, will not contain the defects that will impede the realization of the freedom of speech and will not contradict other laws of Ukraine.

UNIAN

Mass media and election

08.04.2004

The National Council got the authority to cancel the licenses for broadcasting without court decision

   

The unexpected legal norm initiated by the Committee of state construction and local self-rule endangers the work of TV companies during the election.

The Law adopted on 15 May by the Parliament stipulates the right of the Central and district voting commissions to present this question to the National Council in charge of TV and radio broadcasting. This unexpected legal norm initiated by the Committee of state construction and local self-rule endangers the work of TV companies during the election.

Theoretically, this law should change only the norms that contradict the law on election adopted earlier. Yet, it has another role too. Adopting this law, the deputies, in fact, created heavy work conditions for Ukrainian TV and radio organizations during the election campaigns and referendums.

Along with the “usual” changes, the law contains the interpretation of Article 28 of the Law of Ukraine “On TV and radio broadcasting”, which stipulates the activities of TV and radio organizations connected with election process or the process of a referendum. And here we have some pitfalls.

The discussed changes concern the activities of TV and radio organizations not only during the election of people’s deputies. This law stipulates the activities of TV and radio companies during any elections or referendums.

This law gives the additional authorities to the National Council in charge of TV and radio broadcasting related to the control of the fulfillment by the TV and radio organizations of the laws on election. The Council also got the authority “to cancel temporarily (until the end of the election process) the licenses for the use of broadcasting channels on the application of Central Voting commission or district (territorial) voting commissions”.

This norm is rather surprising, since is contains a great number of contradictions and inexactitudes.

First, this norm contradicts Article 32 of the Ukrainian Law “On the National Council in charge of TV and radio broadcasting”, which stipulates the rights of the Council and the sanctions that it may apply. This article envisages the possibility “to cancel temporarily (for the term up to two months) the licenses for the use of broadcasting channels (this measure is used after the application of other punishment measures, except the cases of violation of the demands of part 2 Article 2 of the Law of Ukraine “On TV and radio broadcasting”)”. I want to remind that the election process lasts for 90 days, which is more than two months. Moreover, the mentioned exception has no connection with the election laws. It should be also said that the Law of Ukraine “On election of people’s deputies of Ukraine”, as well as other laws, does not give the right to the voting commissions to turn to the National Council with the applications about applying sanctions. According to part 2 Article 19 of the Ukrainian Constitution, “the organs of state power, organs of local self-rule and their officers must act only on the basis and in the framework of their authorities using the methods envisaged by the Constitution and laws of Ukraine”. So, the presented norm of the Law does not agree with the Constitution too.

Secondly, according to this Law, the National Council may cancel the licenses “in case of transmitting the features that contain the information, the distribution of which is prohibited by the laws on election”. This provision violates one of the fundamental principles of bringing to responsibility: any violation must be defined exactly. Here the legislators refer to three laws that stipulate the procedure of election of the President, deputies and organs of local self-rule. It is absolutely incomprehensible which information is prohibited for distribution by the law on election and what law is meant. So, it is also incomprehensible what information being distributed may result in the temporary cancellation of the license, although some information of this kind is defined in Article 56 of the Ukrainian Law “On election of people’s deputies”, which envisages the restrictions during the pre-election agitation. Yet, there are no exact definitions. Thus, the TV and radio organizations do not know for which actions they may be punished. So, they cannot avoid the illegal actions. Such formulation will inevitably result in the misuses on the side of state organs and officers, as well as in the self-censorship of TV and radio companies during the elucidation of election process or referendum.

The probability of the censorship also increases because the responsibility is envisaged for the contents of information, but not for the methods of its distribution. Therefore, for instance, the refusal to spread the agitation materials, political advertisement on the eve of election or other similar abuses are the procedural ones, and the punishment sanctions for them are imposed by court.

Thirdly, the state organs got one more tool of pressure upon TV and radio organizations of Ukraine during the election process, because now they have the right to cancel the licenses. The operating version of the law, unlike the newly adopted one, states that the temporary cancellation of the license may be realized only “after a court decision, except the cases of transmitting the features that directly appeal for the overthrow of the constitutional order or violation of the territorial integrity of Ukraine”. Here all is defined exactly and understandably. Now we have the situation, when the National Council may cancel the license for spreading some information, which is not clearly defined. This is a good opportunity to exclude the opposition TV and radio organization from the election process. And the National Council, in its turn, becomes a political organ.

Fourthly, this norm again does not agree with European standards in the sphere of TV and radio broadcasting. One of the main principles of independent electronic mass media is the complicacy of the procedure of cancellation the licenses. The sanctions in the form of temporary or complete cancellation of the license may be applied in democratic countries only for numerous (systematic) brutal violations of laws and only after the application of other, less strict, measures. The discussed legal norm envisages the responsibility for the one-time violation of a vague clause of an obscure law.

Finally, this norm does not blend with the general structure of the Ukrainian legislation. The Law of Ukraine “On information” is the basic legal act in the informational sphere. So, this very law should contain the list of information, the distribution of which is prohibited, and the sanctions should be applied for violating this law.

Besides, the discussed norm states: “The activities of TV and radio organizations may be temporarily cancelled after the court decision in the cases envisaged by laws on election”. This provision is absolutely incomprehensible. What is the meaning of the phrase “the activities… may be temporarily cancelled”? It is more or less understandable how the license may be cancelled, but it is difficult to understand what this formula means. One may only guess what the legislators wanted to say. Maybe, it is possible to cancel the work of a TV and radio organization as a subject of entrepreneurial activities. Yet, the Ukrainian laws do not envisage the right of state organs to temporarily cancel the activities of juridical persons. Besides, the laws on election contain no grounds for canceling the activities of TV and radio organizations.

The newly adopted law also widens the sphere of responsibility of the TV and radio organizations for spreading the information, which is contained in the speeches of the candidates for the elective posts. Earlier these organizations were not responsible for such information, but now this is true only for the directly transmitted features. Yet, if such feature was recorded beforehand, then the organization is responsible for the contents of candidates’ speeches. So, now the TV and radio companies must censor and edit the recorded speeches in order not to violate the election laws. And how the candidate would react, if his appearance would be shortened? Moreover, the equality of the rights will be abused, since a candidate, who appears in direct transmission, will be able to say more than another candidate, whose speech will be recorded. The possibility will also appear to censor the speeches of opposition candidates.

It is noteworthy that the draft was not assessed negatively by the deputies. On the contrary, the authors of the draft took into account the propositions of MPs Yu. Kliuchkovskiy and M. Tomenko. At that, the changes concerning the temporary cancellation of the licenses were presented by Yu. Kliuchkovskiy, a deputy from the party “Our Ukraine”. Unfortunately, the deputies did not correct the obvious drawbacks of the draft, and this will undoubtedly influence the elucidation of elections and referendums by Ukrainian TV and radio companies.

It is also interesting that these legal changes do not concern printed mass media (for which a norm referring to the law on election was merely stipulated), but only electronic ones, and the attention to TV and radio, as we see, appeared to be excessive.

Naturally, all these drawbacks may be challenged in court, and we hope that electronic mass media will use this right. Let us wait until the next election campaign, and then we will observe the tendencies of applying these legal norms.

We also hope that the President will use his veto right and will return this law to the Supreme Rada together with his propositions.

Volodymir Yavorskiy, a lawyer of the Association of network TV and radio broadcasters of Ukraine, 16 May 2003, “Telekritika”

Criminal attempts at journalists

08.04.2004

The lawyer of local TV channel was beaten in Odessa

   

MP Yuri Karmazin communicated at the sitting of the Parliament that on 15 May about 11 p.m. Aleksandr Midin, the lawyer of the TV company “Odessa+”, was beaten. According to the words of the MP, the attack had the political motives, since the attackers took away the documents of the company. Now Aleksandr Midin stays in a hospital, his state is rather grave. Yuri Karmazin also said that the TV channel was “persecuted by the people of Odessa mayor Ruslan Bodelian”.

"Forum", www.for-ua.com

***

Tetiana Goriachova: this crime is connected with my professional activities

It is dangerous for life to be an independent journalist in Ukraine – this thesis was more than once stated in the reports of the Council of Europe and other human rights protecting organizations. One of the examples is the story of Tetiana Goriachova. She became a laureate of the International women’s media-foundation, which had been created in the USA. This premium is given to women-journalists, who demonstrated the extraordinary strong character in spite of censorship, attacks and threats. This year the premium was given also to Marielos Monson from Guatemala, Anne Garels from the USA and Magdalena Ruiz Ginazu from Argentina.

Tetiana Goriachova is the editor-in-chief of the newspaper “Berdiansk delovoy”, she is 36 years old. She conducted journalist’s investigation of corruption, when, in January 2002, some stranger splashed the dilute hydrochloric acid in her face.

-- Tetiana, what you felt, when you learned that you became a laureate of the international premium?

-- This was a surprise for me. I am shocked, since I understand clearly that there many journalists in Ukraine, including women, who are more experienced and talented, who work under extreme conditions, and deserved this premium.

-- How is your health now? I heard that you were treated in the USA?

-- Really, last October I visited the USA. The visit was sponsored by the Washington branch of IREX-Promedia and IREX-Promedia-Kyiv headed by Tim O’Connor. I am very grateful to these people. Hal Forter, a professor of journalism and the former editor of “The Los-Angeles Times”, and another very influential sponsor paid for the consultations and diagnostics in the clinic in Dallas. Now my sight is more or less normal, my right eye is healthy for 100%, and left eye – for 60%. The doctor from the Dallas clinic said that the state of the left eye would not deteriorate, but it would not improve too.

-- How the investigation of your case is going? Is it known what were the reasons of the attack?

-- The case is not closed, and the investigation lasts. The man, who is suspected of the attack, disappeared, and law-enforcing organs are looking for him. He is a young, 30-years-old, drug addict. Yet, I believe: this crime is connected with my professional activities. The attack was committed during the election campaign.

-- You dealt with the problem of corruption?

-- Yes, I wrote about the corruption in the local power organs in Berdiansk. According to the decisions of Zaporozhye court, of the district court and Berdiansk court, four officials of the town executive committee were acknowledged to be guilty of corruption, and I wrote four articles about this.

-- It is a prevalent opinion abroad that there is no real freedom of speech in Ukraine. What do you think about this?

-- I reckon that the freedom of speech exists in Ukraine, but it is cruelly persecuted. The story, which happened with me, is a glaring example of this persecution.

Maryana Drach, Radio “Liberty”, 12 May 2003, http://www.radiosvoboda.org

Criminal attempts at journalists

08.04.2004

Death of Ukrainian TV cameraman Bogdan Povarnin

   

In the end of last year Bogdan Povarnin, a 27-year-old cameraman of Kherson TV, was brutally beaten by strangers. He was taken to a hospital with the cerebral brain trauma and nasopharynx haemorrhage that could not be stopped. Bogdan died in two weeks. By that time the attacker, a technical school student, had been already detained. The reason of the tragedy was a trivial robbery.

Shortly after Bogdan’s funeral some bastards attacked his colleague, a 33-year-old cameraman of local TV. The man remained in the street without outer clothing, some personal things and keys, but he was glad that he survived and could move. Three weeks later, after the attack at another cameraman, the street “gangsters” were arrested.

(«Ukrainska gazeta», No. 14, 10-16 April 2003)

Criminal attempts at journalists

08.04.2004

Attack at the lawyer of Odessa TV company “Odessa plus”

   

In Odessa some strangers attacked Aleksandr Mizin, the lawyer of the local TV company “Odessa plus”, and stole his brief case with important documents. The attackers cruelly beat Mizin, and he fainted. Now the lawyer stays in hospital, his state is satisfactory. According to the words of Nina Zaytseva, the editor-in-chief of the TV company, the brief case contained the documents concerning the claim on the protection of honor and dignity handed by independent journalist Grigoriy Kvasniuk against “Odessa plus”. The collective of the company believes that the stolen documents had to settle the conflict in favor of “Odessa plus”.

 («Kievskie Vedomosti », 19 May 2003)

Meddling into professional activities of journalists and mass media

08.04.2004

Heads of TV companies passed the next portion of “temniks” to M. Tomenko

   

Mykola Tomenko, the head of the Parliamentary committee in charge of the freedom of speech and information, again turned to General Prosecutor of Ukraine Sviatoslav Piskun with the demand to start a criminal case after Article 171 of the Criminal Code on preventing the professional activities of journalists by President’s Administration. The demand was caused by the next portion of “temniks” (written recommendations concerning the contents of the information presented by mass media) that had been got by the heads of TV companies and passed by them to Tomenko. In particular, the recommendation of 17 January advises to journalists to obtain the commentaries about the results of the 2nd session of the Supreme Rada only from Oleksandr Zinchenko, Bogdan Gubskiy, Oleksandr Volkov, Igor Sharov, Mykola Onishchuk and Mikhail Pogrebinskiy.

 («Silski visti », No. 16, 7 February 2003)

Meddling into professional activities of journalists and mass media

08.04.2004

Unofficial state censorship at the Ukrainian TV (Research of Human Rights Watch: January 2003)

   

Human Rights Watch. European and Central Asian department
web-site address: http://www.hrw.org
The complete Ukrainian text of the research may be found by the address:
http://www.hrw.org/russian/reports/ukraine/2003/fight1/  
Contents of the research

І. Resume
ІІ. Political background
ІІІ. Mass information background
ІІІ.1. Radio and TV broadcasting
ІІІ.2. Printed editions
ІІІ.3. Internet-media
ІІІ.4. Restrictions of the freedom of expression
IV. Unofficial state censorship by means of “temniks”
IV.1. History of “temniks”
IV.2. Sources of “temniks”
IV.3. Form of “temniks”
IV.4. Topics of “temniks
IV.4.1. Representation of Kuchma
IV.4.2. The freedom of speech
IV.4.3. Activities of the Social-Democratic Party (united)
IV.4.4. Representation of oppositional politicians
IV.4.5. Activities of political parties
V. Influence of “temniks” on the freedom of expression
V.1. Changes of editorial policy and increase of danger for journalists
V.2. Self-censorship
V.3. Restriction of the activities of TV companies
VІ. Recommendations

Appendices: samples of “temniks”

In what follows we present the first section of the research and the appendices

І. RESUME

Although the official censorship, which had been practiced Ukraine in the Soviet times, stopped to exist since 1991, when the country became independent, the unofficial censorship is still practiced. The mass media, which express critical opinions about state officials or other outstanding persons, undergo frequent tax inspections, are deprived of licenses on the basis of formal grounds, libel claims are handed against them; journalists are attacked or have other serious problems. This report informs about one more form of the unofficial censorship: secret recommendations that are compiled by President’s Administration and distributed among managers and editors of national TV companies and some newspapers. These recommendations, the so-called “temniks”, contain the instructions concerning the contents and character of the communicated news. Editors-in-chief are afraid of the consequences of disobedience, so they follow the instructions, thus restricting the activities of journalists.

As a rule, the officials state that they know nothing about “temniks” and have no concern with these documents. However, Ukrainian journalists, analysts of mass media and some outstanding political figures unanimously assert that these instructions are sent from the Administration of the President. Editors obtain the instructions, which demand to elucidate the news in the way that represents President Kuchma and the pro-Presidential Social-Democratic Party of Ukraine (united) (SDPU (u)) in the most favorable light and discredits the oppositional political figures and parties.

In October 2002 the organization “Human Rights Watch”, which carries out the surveillance over the observance of human rights, conducted the research concerning the unofficial political censorship. The researchers interviewed the workers of TV companies, state officials and analysts of mass media. We paid special attention to the influence of “temniks” on TV news, since TV is the most widespread and influential form of mass media in Ukraine. We put our questions to ten representatives of administrations of five national TV companies and one Kyiv company, including chief editors, editors of features, reporters, presenters of TV features and correspondents. Besides, we examined seven “temniks” for different weeks at the end of 2001 and 2002. “Human Rights Watch” got the “temniks” from the sources connected with the administrations of leading TV companies.

For the first time “temniks” were passed to several mass media in September-October 2001 before the election to the Supreme Rada, which had to be conducted in March 2002. Editors, journalists and analysts of mass media informed that in August 2002 “temniks” had been already got by all companies and the obedience to the instructions was stimulated with phone calls and threats. “Temniks” became widely known after Mykola Tomenko, the head of the Supreme Rada Committee in charge of the freedom of speech and information, publicly proclaimed their existence.

“Temniks” undermined the freedom of speech in Ukraine. Editors and journalists had to obey the instructions of “temniks” because of economic and political pressure and because they were afraid of consequences of the refusal to cooperate. The mass media, which supported the opposition political parties or refused to obey the official demands, underwent tax checks, deprival of licenses and libel claims, which endangered the existence of the mass media and sometimes resulted in their complete liquidation. The journalists, who dared to express independent opinions, were transferred to lower posts with the lower salary or were fired. Troubles and violence experienced by journalists even before the appearance of “temniks” made an important contribution to the atmosphere of fear that forced the journalists to follow the directives. The most shocking incident was the murder of openly oppositional journalist Georgiy Gongadze in September 2000, the murder, with which, as it was suspected later, President Leonid Kuchma and other top state officials were connected.

Unsuccessful reforms and economic depression made mass media and journalists very dependent on the sponsorship of political and financial blocs, which used mass media as mouthpiece of their interests. This situation is especially obvious as regards the TV companies. One out of six national TV companies in Ukraine belongs to state, two belong to the leaders of SDPU (u) and are influenced by President’s Administration, three other companies are mainly financed by Leonid Kuchma’s son-in-law. The work of the national Council in charge of TV and radio broadcasting, the most influential organ that regulates the activities of Ukrainian mass media (and the only one that gives them licenses), is insufficiently transparent and is imposed to the paralyzing political pressure.

“Temniks” and other methods of exerting pressure on the work of TV companies transformed the process of communicating news. Earlier journalists, correspondents and editors had some opportunity to settle the contents of news by themselves, but now they must discuss in details all aspects of all texts and features with editors-in-chief or top administration in order to guarantee the observance by the TV company of the instructions of President’s Administration passed to them through “temniks”, phone calls and other unofficial channels. Some managers of TV companies, just to be on the safe side, liquidated political features and analytical shows at all. Too unruly journalists were transferred to the lower posts in the same companies, where their disobedience would be less noticeable. Under such conditions journalists are practicing self-censorship, because they understand which materials will be accepted and which will be prohibited. Now all TV news are pro-presidential, so, taking into account the popularity of TV in the country, the state censorship hampers the access of Ukrainian citizens to the objective information.

APPENDICES: SAMPLES OF “TEMNIKS”

Appendix 1.

PRESS RELEASE, 13 September 2002, 17:00

Attention!

It is recommended to keep to the following order of elucidation of the events on today evening news:

1. To begin the news with the information that in this moment the concert-requiem devoted to the commemoration of the victims of the tragedy of 11 September 2001 is conducted. President Leonid Kuchma is present at the concert.

2. The Internet-conference of President L. Kuchma was hold. Commentary. At the Internet-conference the President presented a number of important statements. The main theses:

-  L. Kuchma will leave his post in 2004;

-  L. Kuchma is sure that Ukraine, as well as the whole world, does not need dictatorship;

-  L. Kuchma believes that the power is ready for the dialog with society, but the society is not ready for it. “Openness of power is a two-way road”.

3. Development of the situation connected with the planned actions of 16 September.

A) In the evening. On 12 September the Shevchenkivskiy district court of Kyiv prohibited the action planned by the Bloc of Yulia Timoshenko, Socialist Party and Communist Party to be conducted on 16 September in the downtown of the capital. The decision is final and may not be appealed. Commentary.  According to the court decision, the participants of the action of 16 September may not gather in the downtown of Kyiv. Apparently, the actions of the BYT, SPU and CPU will be conducted, in accordance with the decision of Kyiv authorities, at the motor-racing circuit “Chayka” in the outskirts of Kyiv. The supporters of the President will carry out their meetings at Glushkov Avenue. As to “Chayka”, mass actions were conducted here more than once. One of the most famous actions was the solemn public worship by Pope John Paul II in 2001. This action was well-organized and there were no excesses.

NВ. It is recommended to use the archive materials about the public worship. Picture: militia, motor ambulance, bio-lavatories. To mention the number of the participants of both actions.

B) On 13 September the councils of the Donetsk, Kharkov and Ternopil oblasts adopted at their extraordinary sittings the appeals on the action of 16 September.

Commentary. An important and urgent event.

NB. The texts of the appeals will be distributed in the nearest future.

C) The Presidium of the Council of the Federation of trade unions of Ukraine adopted at its sitting the resolution, in which it regarded the support of the actions of 16 September as inexpedient and recommended to the chairman of the FTU to refrain from participation “in this and other political actions” (see the supplement).

Commentary. An important and urgent event.

NB. It is recommended to point out, when quoting the text of the resolution, that it was signed by chairman of the FTU A. Stoyan and to show his photo or some video records.

D) The Lviv oblast committee of the CPU stated that they would take part on the actions of 16 September because of the provocative statements of a number of MPs having the nationalistic moods.

Comment. An urgent event.

E) Head of the Administration of the President V. Medvedchuk presented the comment on the events of 16 September.

Commentary. An important and urgent event.

NB. It is recommended to adduce the complete text.

4. The State Tax Administration of Ukraine commented the fact of detention of an assistant of MP A. Turchinov (BYT) with a great sum in cash.

Commentary. An acute and urgent event.

NB. The video record of the detention will be distributed. It is recommended to elucidate the event in details.

5. On 11-13 September General Prosecutor of Ukraine S. Piskun visited Strasbourg with a formal call after the invitation of General Secretary of the Council of Europe V. Shwimmer. S. Piskun met the heads of the Council of Europe, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, “Venetian commission”, delivered the speech at the Bureau of the Committee of Ministers (see the supplement).

Commentary. An important and urgent event.

6. Explosion in a mine was prevented in the Lviv oblast. The head of the oblast militia directorate conducted a press conference.

Commentary. An important and urgent event. According to the information of Lviv militia directorate, no connection exists between the incident and the actions of 16 September.

NB. The video record with the comments of representatives of law-enforcing organs of the Lviv oblast will be distributed. It is recommended to elucidate the event in details.

7. On 13 September the sitting of the collegium of the Ministry of Emergency Situations with the participation of Minister V. Durdinets was conducted in Uzhgorod (Zakarpatskaya oblast). The sitting concerned the questions of liquidating the consequences of flood.

Commentary. For the notice of editorial boards.

8. MP Yu. Karmazin declared that he got the information about the location of G. Gongadze’s head.

Commentary. Is absent.

Appendix 2.

additional commentary to the events of the week.

for service use only

The main topic of the week:

1. The Supreme Rada of Ukraine will begin its new session from the discussion of the TV appeal of President L. Kuchma to the Ukrainian people.

For service use only. It is recommended to obtain the comments about forming the composition of the coalition government from the representatives of fractions, political parties and public organizations, but not from the members of the acting Cabinet of Ministers. It is not recommended to concentrate the attention on the draft of the law “On the election of people’s deputies of Ukraine” presented by MPs Yu. Ioffe and G. Dashutin.

principal TOPICS OF THE WEEK:

2. Participation of President L. Kuchma in the World summit on the questions of stable development in Johannesburg (Republic of South Africa).

For service use only. During the elucidation of the bilateral meetings it is recommended to concentrate the attention on the intercommunication of the President with the representatives of European political elite. To elucidate the meetings with the leaders of African countries in the external-economic context after the additional agreement.

topics for elucidation in sunday news

4. Reaction of the society and politicians to the appeal of President L. Kuchma to the Ukrainian people of 24 August 2002.

For service use only. It is recommended to use in the newspaper materials the text of the public letter of V. Yushchenko to the President and his article published in “Zerkalo nedeli” (31 August 2002) in order to demonstrate the contradictions in the position of “Nasha Ukraina” concerning the TV appeal of L. Kuchma. On the one hand, “NU” states that the bloc for a long time considered necessary the transition to the Parliamentary-Presidential republic, and on the other hand it points out that any changes of the political system would be untimely now, since both the society and the political sphere are not ready for this. On the one hand, “NU” protests against the interference of President’s Administration to the structurization of the Parliament, and on the other hand it asks President to assist in forming the majority on the basis of “NU”. So, which statements of V. Yushchenko are true? Probably, such contradictory reaction of V. Yushchenko evidences his nervousness caused by the real prospects to loose the chance to occupy the President’s post.

The position of the SDPU (u) concerning the political reform should be presented in the usual information regime.

The attention should not be concentrated on the initiatives of some politicians connected with the conduction of referendum on the questions of the transition to the Parliamentary-Presidential system.

The conflict of E. Chervonenko and O. Rybachuk should not be elucidated.

It is not recommended to inform about the number of MPs, who allegedly agreed to join the Parliamentary majority.

It is recommended to illustrate the appeals of the political forces, which support the President, about the friendship with “NU” only with the statements of S. Tigipko, and not of other commentators.

prolonged topics:

6. Opposition prepares for the conduction of street actions on 16 September.

For service use only. This is a topic for printed and Internet editions only. It is recommended not to elucidate the topic on TV.

The informational work on the so-called “Forum of democratic forces” will be conducted after the following logical scheme:

-  In fact, the forum is a meeting of the appointed representatives of the parties.

-  Not all forces that are going to take part in the action may be called “democratic” (e. g. the Social Nationalistic party of O. Tiagnibok).

-  Yushchenko must exclude the people, who are far from democracy, from the list of the participants, to elaborate the rules of participation in the forum. In this case actually democratic forces will be ready to take part in the action.

-  If V. Yu. would not do this, he risks to discredit the forum in the opinion of public.

-  If V. Yu. would “purge” the list and would make public the procedure of its compilation, then scores of various parties and organizations would direct the letters with the applications for the participation in the forum. As a result, the opportunity of muddling the action appears, and the action risks to become ridiculous.

7. The General Prosecutor’s office of Ukraine continues the investigation of resonant cases.

For service use only. It is recommended to keep up thoroughly with the informational occasions given by the General Prosecutor’s office. It is not recommended to distort the information presented by the General Prosecutor’s office, all official formulations should be retained.

9. On 1-14 September the joint Ukrainian-Britain battalion maneuvers with shooting “Kazatskiy express-2002” will be conducted in the framework of the NATO program “Partnership for the sake of peace”. The maneuvers will take place on the Yavorivske polygon of the Western operational commandment.

For service use only. It is not recommended to concentrate the attention on the fact of combat shooting. The video records should be showed demonstrating the military in a favorable light.

ADDITIONAL TOPICS:

2 September, Monday

11. The Day of Knowledge is celebrated in Ukraine.

For service use only. The excessive demonstration of deputies’ congratulations is not recommended. The state officials responsible for the education sphere should be shown.

13. At 10:00 the ceremony of unveiling the Ukrainian-Hungarian institute of informational technologies named after Arpad Gents will begin.

For service use only. It is recommended to ignore the event.

17. The grand meeting devoted to the beginning of 2002-2003 school year will be conducted.

For service use only. The recommendations on the elucidation of the event will be provided additionally.

18. At 11:00 the press conference “Stand up, Ukraine!” will begin.

For service use only. It is recommended to ignore the event.

19. The Commission on journalists’ ethics and the public organization “Khartiya-4” are resuming their regional tours around Ukraine. On 2-3 September the representatives of the commission will visit Lviv.

For service use only. It is recommended to ignore the event.

20. At 13:00 the press conference of the publishing house “Taki spravy” will begin. The topic: “Tax officers began the concrete actions directed at the misappropriation of the property of the publishing house “Taki spravy”.

For service use only. It is recommended to ignore the event.

3 September, Tuesday

27. At 15:00 the “round table” will begin devoted to the discussion of the political reform in Ukraine.

For service use only. It is recommended to avoid the elucidation of any theses that call into question the seriousness of President’s initiatives.

32. 40 days passed since the air accident at the airdrome Skynliv.

For service use only. It is recommended to ignore the attempts of some political parties to turn this date into a political show.

Human Rights Watch
http://www.hrw.org/russian/reports/ukraine/2003/fight1

 

Court processes for protecting the freedom of speech and the press

08.04.2004

The prosecutor’s office of the Shevchenkivskiy district of Kyiv refused to start a criminal case after the claim of a correspondent of “Kievskie vedomosti”

   

Yulia Kim, a correspondent of “Kievskie vedomosti”, handed a claim to the prosecutor’s office of the Shevchenkivskiy district demanding to start a criminal case after Article 171 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (impeding the professional activities of journalists). The claim was caused by the fact that, after an open court sitting in the Kyiv Appeal court, the judge attached the audiocassette from Yu. Kim’s dictaphone, which cassette was taken away from the journalist by one of the relatives of the victim, to the materials of the criminal case. More than a year after the incident a letter came to the newspaper, which read that the journalist might come to the court and to get her cassette. Nevertheless, the prosecutor’s office issued the decision on the refusal to institute the criminal case “because of the absence of corpus delicti”. Yulia Kim learned in the prosecutor’s office that not a single criminal case was started according to Article 171 during 18 months after the new Criminal Code came into force. This fact is astonishing, since almost all journalists can describe the situation, when they were denied the access to information, were not permitted to press conferences and got no responses to written requests.

(«Kievskie vedomosti», 28 March 2003)

Court processes against journalists and mass media. civil cases. defamation

08.04.2004

Court made the newspaper “Stolichny novyny” to pay almost 3 million hryvnas to IASM

   

07 May 2003

The holding company “Stolichny novyny” must pay almost 3 million hryvnas of compensation for discrediting honor, dignity and business reputation to the Inter-regional Academy of Staff Management (IASM). This decision was issued on 5 May by the Pecherskiy district court of Kyiv. The defendants do not want to pay the compensation, so they handed the appeal against the court decision.

The pretensions against “Stolichny novyny” were brought by several plaintiffs. The claimants were: the IASM, the International Staff Academy, Georgiy Shchokin, the head of these academies, and Igor Slesarenko, the editor-in-chief of the magazine “Personnel”. They demanded to print in all newspapers of the holding company the refutations of all materials published before, which discredited their honor, dignity and business reputation.

Igor Slesarenko, the editor-in-chief of the magazine “Personnel”, told that the claimants were offended with “the series of articles that were published during the last year”, so they turned to court. “These were the invented accusations”, he said, “presented in the insulting and cynical form with bad intentions. The defendants clearly understood that their actions were illegal”.

Vadim Rabinovich, the President of the holding company “Stolichny novyny”, is sure that the court issued a biased verdict:

“During last year we turned to the Pecherskiy court for 72 times, and for 72 times we lost the cases. We write much about this court, and they dislike us. Yet, they are disgracing laws. We will see what will happen later. If Mr. Shchokin thinks that the court decision will rehabilitate him, he is wrong”.

The officers of the Pecherskiy court responded to all questions in the following way:

“Commenting the court decisions is not related to the competence of the court. Do you know the surname of the judge, who considered the case? Well, then turn to him in his reception hours – on Wednesday from 15:00 to 18:00 and on Friday from 8:00 to 13:00”.

The President of the holding company told in the interview to the Public radio that his lawyers had already handed the appeal against the decision of the Pecherskiy district court. V. Rabinovich is sure that the higher instances will cancel the decision. The administration of the IASM is also preparing to the new trial. They decided that, if they would obtain the compensation, they would pass the money to charity organizations that patronize orphans.

The Institute of mass information, http://imi.org.ua/

Court processes against journalists and mass media. civil cases. defamation

08.04.2004

Claim of the plant “Sokol” against the newspaper “Novy den”

   

The administration of the machine-building plant “Sokol” situated in Novaya Kakhovka (the Kherson oblast) demanded from the oblast weekly “Novy den” to recompense the damage to business reputation. The demanded sum was 1 million 270 thousand hryvnas. The plant also handed a similar claim against the newspaper “Delovye novosti” (Novaya Kakhovka).

By the way, the previous “record” compensation sum was also demanded from “Novy den”. One of the district officials demanded 500 thousand hryvnas from the editorial board for the insult of honor and dignity, but the journalists managed to prove the groundlessness of his arguments.

The new claim against the weekly was accepted by the Economic court of the Kherson oblast.

(«Kievskie vedomosti», 19 February 2003)

Court processes against journalists and mass media. civil cases. defamation

08.04.2004

Claim of the Chernivtsy oblast directorate of education and science against the newspaper “Chernivtsy-CITY-plus”

   

The agency “Ukrinform” communicates that the representatives of the Chernivtsy oblast directorate of education and science estimated the moral damage, which was allegedly inflicted to their reputation by the publication of an article by Vasiliy Zabrodskiy in the newspaper “Chernivtsy-CITY-plus”, at 90 million 750 thousand hryvnas. The publication contained the information about the incompetence of the oblast officials of the education sphere. The method of calculating the compensation sum appeared to be rather original: the representatives of the directorate multiplied the minimal recompensing sum, which is stipulated by the Civil-Procedural Code (820 UAH), by the run of the newspaper. One of the demands of the claimant is to sequestrate the accounts of all organizations, where journalist Vasiliy Zabrodskiy works. The matter concerns the entire media holding “CITY” headed by Vasiliy Zabrodskiy. The holding includes two TV companies, one radio station and the newspaper “Chernivtsy-CITY-plus”.

Court processes against journalists and mass media. civil cases. defamation

08.04.2004

MP V. Baloga vs. the newspaper “Panorama” (Mukachevo, the Zakarpatska oblast)

   

Representatives of the Association of the workers of mass media state that MP V. Baloga more then once tried to destroy the Mukachevo district newspaper “Panorama” trying to take away illegally the office of the newspaper. The interference of law-enforcing organs and court restored justice. V. Baloga made peace with the editorial board and gave some money to the newspaper as a partial compensation of the capital repair. Yet, the MP is restless: he again handed the claim again “Panorama” on recompensing the allegedly inflicted moral damage equal to 20 thousand hryvnas.

 («Kievskie vedomosti», 9 April 2003; «2000», Nos. 18-19, 16-22 May 2003)

Court processes against journalists and mass media. civil cases. defamation

08.04.2004

Repeated consideration of the claim of G. Lysenko against the newspaper “Informatsiyny bulleten” (Kremenchug)

   

The Kriukiv local court again considers the claim on defamation handed by Kriukiv inhabitant G. Lysenko against the newspaper “Informatsiyny bulleten” (Kremenchug). The demanded sum of compensation is 100 thousand UAH. The first consideration lasted for two years and the claim was not satisfied. However, the Poltava Appeal court satisfied the complaint and returned the case to Kremenchug for the repeated consideration.

(After the materials of “Informatsiyny bulleten”, No. 15, 17 April 2003)

Court processes against journalists and mass media. civil cases. defamation

08.04.2004

Court satisfied the claim of studio “1+1” against the newspaper “Stolichnye novosti”

   

In January 2003 the Pecherskiy district court of Kyiv satisfied the claim of studio “1+1” against the newspaper “Stolichnye novosti”. The court acknowledged the information published in the newspaper to be inauthentic and obliged the defendants to pay to the TV studio the compensation of the moral damage equal to 10 million hryvnas. Yet, the studio “1+1” decreased the demanded sum to 1 hryvna hoping at the same time that the false information published in the newspaper would be publicly refuted.

 (Our informant)

Court processes against journalists and mass media. civil cases. defamation

08.04.2004

Court satisfied the claim of V. Sitar against the Internet-newspaper “Grani”. The newspaper must pay 60 thousand UAH to recompense the moral damage

   

The court admitted that Viktor Vorotnik, the editor of Brovary newspaper “Grani”, was guilty of libel. On 14 June 2002 the Internet-newspaper “Grani” published the Article signed by Sergey Romanovskiy “Apocalypse is free”. The sensational information was immediately picked up by other mass media, at first – by network editions (“Versii” and “Ukraina kriminalnaya”), and later – by newspapers and TV. The article contained a number of the scandalous accusations concerning the President of Ukraine and the Council of National Security and Defense (CNSD). The author of the article mentioned the name of Vasiliy Sitar, who allegedly advised to major Melnichenko “how to cross the frontier without problems and how to behave later on”. The “main hero” of the article had no other way out except the protection of his rights in court. Mr. Sitar won the court process. This affair was completed on 6 March 2003: the Appeal court of the Kyiv oblast approved the decision of the Brovary court of 12 November 2002. Two defendants, who represented “Grani”, were obliged to publish the refutation and to pay to Vasiliy Sitar the compensation of moral damage equal to 60 thousand hryvnas. Now “Grani” has disappeared from the informational space. The Institute of mass information, referring to the editor of “Grani”, communicates that the Internet-newspaper “is not published for more than a month either in printed or in electronic form”. Besides, the IMI remarks that “Grani” plans to resume the work approximately in a month.

We could not find Mr. Vorotnikov, but we managed to put some questions to Vasiliy Sitar, a deputy head of the CNSD.

Vasiliy Sitar:

“… I was very surprised, when I find my name in the report of “Reporters without frontiers”. The international reporters pointed out in the section “Threats” that last year five Ukrainian journalists were intimidated by the representatives of Ukrainian state power. One of the examples reads that I threatened Viktor Vorotnikov. Really, Mr. Vorotnikov turned to various organizations, including international ones, with the complaints against the alleged facts of intimidation and threats to his life. Yet, these insinuations have been already disproved in court. This court process was elucidated by the agency UNIAN in November, the materials about the trial were published in many newspapers and on Internet-sites… I brought an action not against the mass medium, but against the physical person -- Viktor Vorotnikov. You see, Article 440-1 of the Civil Code exists, which reads that if a person spread some information in any way, other people familiarized with this information, and it inflicted damage to somebody, then the distributor of this information is responsible for his actions. This means that I had the legal grounds to bring the suit against Vorotnikov as a physical person…

For the first time the juridical practices deals with the information spread through an Internet edition. It appeared during the trial that there was one more defendant – Sergey Shumikhin, a co-owner of the site “Grani”…

I believe that this provocative material was invented by somebody else, not Vorotnikov, as a part of the action directed against the top authorities of Ukraine with the purpose to undermine the trust in Ukraine… I do not want to start legal proceedings against the “Reporters”. I sent the copies of the court verdict to them, and I hope that they will refute this lie about me”.

(«2000», Nos. 18-19, 16-22 May 2003)

Court processes against journalists and mass media. civil cases. defamation

08.04.2004

A Kirovograd newspaper is punished for quoting

   

The Kirovograd weekly “Ukraina-tsentr” turned to the Supreme Court of Ukraine with the appeal against the verdict of the oblast appeal court, which took the decision to collect from the editorial board 50 thousand UAH of compensation of moral damage inflicted to the plaintiff, the ex-candidate to the post of Kirovograd mayor. The claim was caused by the publication of the statements of the plaintiff’s opponent during the election campaign.

The main argument of the defendants was the fact that the published information was taken from the news tape of the UNIAN agency. However, both the court of the first instance and the appeal court ignored this argument. There is one more interesting detail in this story: the claimant is not only a politician, he is also a head of one of district courts of Kirovograd. Would the judges demonstrate the solidarity to their colleague or they would follow the laws only?

It should be noted that the judge has already managed to punish several mass media.

The details of this case were presented to “Telekritika” by Efim Marmer, the editor-in-chief of the Kirovograd newspaper “Ukraina-tsentr”.

-  Last year, after the long and scandalous election in Kirovograd, Vladimir Yaroshenko, the head of Kirovskiy district court, instituted a suit against our newspaper. He pretended to the mayor’s post and carried out rather active political work. Some local mass media opposed him and openly supported his political opponents. The position of “Ukraina-tsentr” was objective. We gave the floor to all candidates, including Yaroshenko and his opponents. In June of last year an event occurred very significant for Kirovograd. Two press conferences organized by Kirovograd dwellers were carried out in UNIAN in Kyiv. One of these conferences was conducted by the members of voting commission, the activities of which were somewhat endorsed by Yaroshenko. The second one was carried out by journalists, who criticized the participants of the former press conference. We printed the message about it on the first page of our newspaper. Our journalists were absent at this press conference, and we had to use the information given by UNIAN. The attention of Vladimir Yaroshenko was attracted by the phrase, which was also taken from the materials of the news agency. This was a phrase of TV journalist Yuri Mikhaylovich, a participant of the press conference, who publicly stated that he had the information about the preparation of his murder and that Yaroshenko was in some degree connected with it.

– And you published this quotation without Yaroshenko’s comments?

– This was an official message of UNIAN received on the day of issuing the newspaper. By the way, leading TV channels also informed about this press conference in the evening. They also cited this ill-fated phrase. Well, we did not write that Yaroshenko ordered to murder Mikhaylovich. We wrote that Mikhaylovich said this at the press conference. Do you see the difference? Nevertheless, this phrase became a subject of Vladimir Yaroshenko’s claim against our newspaper and against the journalist Yuri Mikhaylovich.

We tried to explain this difference both to the district and oblast Themis, but failed. We tried to prove that we took this phrase from the UNIAN message. The court sent the request to UNIAN agency and received the official response from Mikhail Batog, the former head of the agency, who confirmed that “Ukraina-tsentr” really used the materials of UNIAN.

Thus, according to laws, our edition had to be relieved of responsibility at once. However, several weeks later one more letter from UNIAN, sent personally to Yaroshenko, appeared in the case. This letter was signed by notorious Mr. Yurychko, the new head of the agency. The letter read that the material did not belong to the agency, since it was “substantially changed”, and that UNIAN had not given any materials to “Ukraina-tsentr”, because the newspaper was not a client of the agency. Later it turned out that the latter by Balog disappeared from the case. When we learned this, we urgently went to Kyiv to obtain the copy of this document. By the way, neither the fact of the disappearance of very important document from the case nor the actions of Galina Butelskaya, a judge of the Leninskiy district court of Kirovograd, were estimated by anybody.

Thus, the case contained two mutually exclusive documents. All our demands about the comparative textual expertise of this ill-fated article and the UNIAN information were rejected. We suggested to challenge the court composition because of the biased attitude to the case. Vladimir Yaroshenko mentioned in his writ that he was the head of the oblast Council of judges, and this fact meant that every judge in the oblast depended on him. Yet, this petition was also rejected. The only thing we achieved was the decrease of the suit sum from 500 to 100 thousand hryvnas. The newspaper was obliged to publish the refutation, but in a rather strange way. Judge Butelskaya issued the decision, in which she demanded from the newspaper to repeat the text of the article in the refutation.

There is one more peculiarity. During the consideration of the case in the district court Yuri Mikhaylovich presented to court a video record of the press conference, which testified that… he had said nothing of the kind. Thus, it turned out that UNIAN spread the non-existent information. Yaroshenko, in his part, presented the video record containing the vexed phrase. So, the expertise of the records had to be conducted, but nothing was done. Later, in the appeal court, we tried to adduce the arguments that, according to the well-known resolution of the Plenum of the Supreme Court, the malicious intent of journalists had to be proved during the consideration of the cases on the protection of honor, dignity and business reputation. But how one may prove this, if “Ukraina-tsentr” was nearly only newspaper in Kirovograd, which published the speeches of Mr. Yaroshenko. Everybody sympathized with us, but finally the appeal court fixed the compensation sum equal to 50 thousand UAH. It is shocking! More then once we brought up this question in the Supreme Rada, we also turned to ombudsperson N. Karpacheva. The Arbitration Informational Court and the Supreme Rada Committee in charge of the freedom of speech and information issued their legal conclusions on this case. According to them, our newspaper must not be responsible for this publication. However, all our arguments were ignored.

-- The court verdict came into force, so did you publish the refutation?

-- No, we handed the cassation complaint at once, as well as the petition to suspend the execution of court verdict until the consideration of the complaint. It is noteworthy that I personally met Vasiliy Maliarenko, the Chairman of the Supreme Court of Ukraine. He listened to me very attentively. The execution of the decisions of district and appeal courts was suspended. It was very important for us, since the executive service had already took the decision to freeze our accounts and to seize our property. Today the date of the consideration of our cassation has not been appointed yet. However, I know that judge Yaroshenko, who had legal proceedings with almost all leading mass media of Kirovograd, will not calm.

As a rule, citizens turn to the Supreme Court with the requests to return the case to the court of first instance for the repeated consideration. We turned to the Supreme Court with the request to consider our case per se. We categorically do not want our case to be returned to Kirovograd.

-- If the court would satisfy the initial demands of the plaintiff, and the decision would be taken about collecting 50 thousand hryvnas from your newspaper, what it would mean for the edition?

-- Even 50 thousand UAH will destroy our edition. This means that we would not be able to pay either for paper or for printing… During the trial we told that this decision would ruin the newspaper, that they were impeding journalist’s work. Moreover, the claimant did not adduce any documentary proofs of his moral sufferings, which documents should be the basis for estimating the size of the compensation, although he had to do this in accordance to laws. Yet, a wonderful phrase was permanently repeated in the courtroom, and all newspapers that elucidated the process cited this phrase later: “the pre-term going gray”. In this connection we prepared the document, which confirmed that the term of the appearance of gray hairs depends on the genetic factors.

We hope that the Supreme Court will estimate our arguments properly.

-- What is now the situation in Kirovograd as to the freedom of mass media activities?

-  On 23 May the appeal court of Cherkassy considered the claim of judge Yaroshenko against other Kirovograd mass media – the oblast TV and radio company, TV company “TTV” and newspaper “Kirovogradskaya pravda”. The claimant accused the above-listed mass media of quoting (again!) the critical speech, which was delivered by his election rival at a mass meeting. The oblast TV and radio company preferred “to recant”, and other mass media were severely punished: TVC “TTV” had to pay 300 thousand hryvnas of moral compensation to Mr. Yaroshenko, and “Kirovogradskaya pravda” – 50 thousand hryvnas. The tariffs, as you see, are similar to metropolitan ones, but they are absolutely exhaustive for the provincial mass media. So, either the number of mass media in Kirovograd will diminish in the nearest future, or a new media-magnate will appear in the town. However, I know that the defendants are already preparing the cassations to the Supreme Court of Ukraine. So, we can hope only for the Supreme Court.

Prepared by Oksana Lysenko, 30 May 2003, «Telekritika»,  http://www.telekritika.kiev.ua

Court processes against journalists and mass media. criminal cases

08.04.2004

The General Prosecutor’s office continues to interrogate journalists in the framework of “Kuchma’s case”

   

On 5 May the Dnepropetrovsk prosecutor’s office interrogated Olena Garaguts, the editor of the local newspaper “Litsa”.

On 6 May the city prosecutor’s officers conducted search in the newspaper office and seized three issues of the newspaper containing three reprinted articles by Tatiana Korobova.

According to the information of “UP”, the prosecutor’s office fulfilled the order of the General Prosecutor’s office, which investigates case No. 49-1120 started after “the facts of publishing in mass media, brochures and other editions the materials directed at the illegal influence on the President of Ukraine with the purpose to impede the fulfillment by him of his service duties, according to part 1 Article 334 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine”.

Ms. Garaguts told that the investigating officers put standard questions: From where they got the articles by Korobova? Whether they have the manuscripts? Who initiated the publication? Who ordered to publish the articles?

We want to remind that on 24 April President Kuchma turned to the General Prosecutor’s office with the request to stop the investigation on the publications that undermine his authority in mass media.

The Institute of mass information, http://imi.org.ua/

Court processes against journalists and mass media. criminal cases

08.04.2004

The Appeal court of the Cherkassy oblast did not change the verdict on Oleg Liashko’s case

   

13 May 2003

The Appeal court of the Cherkassy oblast considered the appeal handed by Oleg Liashko, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper “Svoboda”, and his advocate Bogdan Ferents. The court did not change the verdict issued in February 2003 by the Sosnovskiy district court of Cherkassy.

The agency ForUm informs that on 5 February 2003 the Sosnovskiy district court of Cherkassy brought in a verdict of guilty against Oleg Liashko. Liashko was accused of physical resistance to the officers of militia and prosecutor’s office during the search in the printing shop “Respublika” (part 2 Article 342 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine).

On the eve of this search the truck of the printing shop, which transported the 107-thousand run of the newspaper “Svoboda” to Kyiv”, was robbed by strangers, who drowned the run in the river. The next day the run was printed again, but it was confiscated by prosecutor’s officers in the course of the search. This issue, in particular, contained the materials that concerned General Prosecutor Mykhaylo Potebenko.

Yet, the prosecutor’s office started the criminal case on the misuses of the administration of the printing shop “Respublika”, in the framework of which the search was conducted. The editor-in-chief of “Svoboda” refused to give to the law-enforcers the repeatedly printed run of the newspaper. For this he was taken into the preliminary prison and condemned.

The appeal reads that the court “considered the circumstances of the case one-sidedly and incompletely”. Besides, the court mechanically moved the argumentation from the materials of the preliminary investigation to the verdict, so the verdict may not be regarded as legal.

By the request of O. Liashko the judges examined the militia video record of the events of 24 March 2002 in the printing shop. Before this the record was twice viewed during the trial in the Sosnovskiy district court. The correspondent of ForUm points out that the judges of the Appeal court could also see that the video record contained no evidence of the illegal actions of Liashko (on the contrary, Liashko was extremely polite with the law-enforcers). Yet, the record clearly shows how the militia impeded the transportation of the run from the printing house and then confiscated it without any legal grounds.

In his final plea the journalist declared: “after the examination of the video record every unbiased person should draw the conclusions opposite to the conclusions made by the prosecutor’s office”. The editor of “Svoboda” believes that the prosecutor’s officers committed a crime, when they illegally seized the run of the newspaper (which is still kept in the Cherkassy oblast prosecutor’s office), thereby inflicting to the editorial board the material damage equal to 74000 UAH. “The cases started against me and against “Respublika” is an attempt to dodge the responsibility for the committed crime”, O. Liashko said.

The judges conferred for almost an hour, after which they announced the verdict: to reject the appeal and to leave the verdict of the Sosnovskiy district court without changes.

Andriy Lubenskiy, for ForUm
http://ukr.for-ua.com/news/2003/05/13/152634.html

Court processes against journalists and mass media. criminal cases

08.04.2004

MPs asked the General Prosecutor to publish the information about the investigation of the cases against mass media that undermined the authority of President Kuchma

   

14 May 2003

Today the Supreme Rada of Ukraine supported the request of MP Mykola Tomenko to the General Prosecutor about the promulgation of the information about criminal cases against mass media, which published the materials directed at the illegal influence on the President of Ukraine. 171 deputies endorsed the request, “Interfax-Ukraina” informs.

As it is known, the General Prosecutor’s office conducts the investigation of criminal case No. 49-1120 “the facts of publishing in mass media, brochures and other editions the materials directed at the illegal influence on the President of Ukraine with the purpose to impede the fulfillment by him of his service duties”. According to the order of the General Prosecutor’s office, regional law-enforcing organs interrogate journalists and seize the runs of printed mass media.

Earlier M. Tomenko turned to the General Prosecutor asking to inform whether they fulfilled the request of the President to stop all criminal cases against the mass media, which printed the materials discrediting his honor and dignity.

The Parliament also supported Tomenko’s request to the head of the anti-monopoly committee about the check of the information concerning the violation by MP Viktor Pinchuk of the anti-monopoly laws. V. Pinchuk is a founder of several newspapers and TV channels.

The IMI communicates that on 8 April Olena Gromnitska, the press secretary of the President of Ukraine, confirmed that the General Prosecutor’s office instituted the criminal case according to Article 334 item 1 (illegal influence on the President) after the fact of publishing the materials directed at the detriment of the authority of the head of the state.

Today it is known that the investigation activities (such as interrogations and confiscations of the newspapers) were applied to at least 7 printed mass media: “Informatsiyny bulleten” (Kremenchug), “Cherkasska pravda” (Cherkassy), “Rivnenskiy dialog” (Rivne), “Pozitsiya” (Sumy), “Antenna” (Cherkassy), “Volyn” (Rivne) and “Populiarna gazeta” (Dnepropetrovsk).

The Institute of mass information, http://imi.org.ua/

Court processes against journalists and mass media. criminal cases

08.04.2004

The criminal case against journalists after “the facts” of “illegal influence on the President” was closed

   

Mykola Tomenko, the head of the Supreme Rada Committee in charge of the freedom of speech and information, communicates that the “absurd criminal case against journalists after “the facts of illegal influence on the President”” was closed owing to public solidarity.

The comment of Tomenko passed to the agency UNIAN reads that he received the response to his deputy’s request. The letter was sent by Viktor Shokhin, a deputy of the General Prosecutor. Shokhin informs that “no criminal deeds envisaged by the Criminal Code of Ukraine” were found in the actions of the workers of the editions from the Kherson, Dnepropetrovsk, Cherkassy, Kharkov and other oblasts, against whom the investigation activities were conducted in the framework of criminal case No. 149-1120.

The deputy’s request of Mykola Tomenko concerning this case was supported on 14 May by the Supreme Rada (172 votes “for”).

The deputy of the General Prosecutor points out in his letter that “the investigation did not found any suspected or accused in this case” and that “the criminal case was closed on 13 May 2003 on the basis of the demands of item 2 Article 6 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine”. According to this provision, “a criminal case may not be started, and the already started criminal case must be closed if corpus delicti is absent”.

M. Tomenko reminded that the present case was started “according to part 1 Article 334 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, after the facts of publications in mass media, brochures and other editions of materials directed at the illegal influence on the President of Ukraine with the purpose to impede the fulfillment by him of his service duties”.

“Thus”, the deputy stated, “at last the General Prosecutor’s office acknowledged the absurdity of this case. Interpreting the journalists’ materials as “the attempts to impede President’s activities” could result only in the increase of the disrespect of the Ukrainian society and other countries for the Ukrainian legal system, in the further discredit of prosecutor’s and other organs, which, according to the law, must control the observance of laws in Ukraine”.

M. Tomenko is sure that the solidarity of the public, politicians, mass media and journalists influenced very much on the decision to close the case. “At last”, he said, ”the power stopped to discredit itself and Ukraine as a whole”.

The Institute of mass information
30 May 2003
 http://www.imi.org.ua

The internet

08.04.2004

"Ukrainian Internet community" invites for cooperation in the questions of administering the domain .UA

   

Press release, 15 May 2003

The all-Ukrainian public organization "Ukrainian Internet community" (UIC, uic.org.ua), in the accordance with the decision of the executive council of 2 April, invited for the work in the Opened Public supervision council in charge of the questions of administering the domain .UA the state agencies, the activities of which are connected with the development of the Internet in Ukraine. The invitations were sent to the Supreme Rada of Ukraine (for the Head of the profile committee), the Security Service of Ukraine, the State Committee in charge of the questions of regulatory politics and business, the State Committee of communication and informatization of Ukraine, the State Committee in charge of the questions of technical regulation and consumer politics, the State Department of intellectual property and the Anti-monopoly Committee of Ukraine.

The UIC expressed the protest in the connection with the publication on 13 May on the official site of the President of Ukraine (www.president.gov.ua) of the public letter by K. Siniavskiy, the former head of the board of directors of the Association of the participants of the Ukrainian Internet market (www.auriu.org). In particular, this letter states: “It is inadmissible situation… when one private structure and one public organization "Ukrainian Internet community" try to obtain the full control over the all-national telecommunication resource – the domain of highest level .UA without taking into account the interests of other organizations”. The UIC turns the attention of all interested persons to the fact that the multilateral agreement on the creation of the Opened Public supervision council in charge of the questions of administering the domain .UA was signed on 30 January 2003 not only by the UIC, but also by the greatest union of Internet providers – the Internet Association of Ukraine (www.inau.org.ua) and the operating administrator of the domain. This will guarantee the consistency and logicality of the reforming process. This agreement has the open character, and the UIC is sure that other public organizations, associations of enterprises and state agencies, which are interested in the steady development of the Internet in Ukraine, will join the agreement soon.

The UIC denounces the attempts of certain interested persons to create the impression that the process of administering the domain .UA is non-legitimate and non-transparent. The domain is a public resource and it must be controlled by public. The UIC is ready to cooperate with any state and non-state organizations. The process of the creation of the efficient and transparent system of public control is going according to the plan, and nobody can stop it.

Reference

The all-Ukrainian public organization "Ukrainian Internet community" was founded on 15 March 2002 by the initiative congress, it was registered on 16 July 2002 by the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine (certificate No. 1812). The organization has 17 regional branches in the oblasts of Ukraine and in Kyiv.

The goal of the public organization "Ukrainian Internet community", which is stipulated in its statute, is the promotion of the development of the Ukrainian constituent of the worldwide network Internet as one of the methods of forming the civil society in Ukraine, and the promotion of technological, business and intellectual progress in Ukraine. The UIC believes that the evolution of the Internet in Ukraine is an important factor for the development of freedom and democracy, market economy and informational society, it is an essential step towards the integration of Ukraine into the world community. The more detailed information you may found in the Internet: http://www.uic.org.ua/.

0pinions

08.04.2004

Ukrainian service of radio “Liberty”: The discussion about the rights of journalists and citizens for obtaining information

   

Nadiya Sherstiuk: Since 1 January 2004 the new Civil Code will become operable in Ukraine. Lawyer Tetiana Montian reckons that the new Code contains a great number of contradictions, which may cause the essential damage to workers of mass media. Our Kyiv correspondent Viktor Miniaylo asked Tetiana Montian to explain her position.

Tetiana Montian: It seems that people, who wrote and adopted the Code, did not adjust the separate articles.

The most surprising is the provision reading that any negative information spread about a person is regarded as false (article 277, item 3). Sorry, what the negative information is? Firstly, this is an evaluative category, and everybody, who dislikes the information spread about him, may declare that this information is false. The new Code also contains the definition of positive information. So, let us read Article 302 item 3: “The information communicated by state officials and published in the official sources is regarded as true”. Yet, our state officials are different. They say different (and sometimes absolutely opposite) things. Certainly, it is understandable what the authors wanted to say. They meant that in the first case the negative information must be proved by the person, who spread it. The second provision means that if a person quoted the words of a state official correctly and without changes, this person is not responsible for the contents of these words.

Viktor Miniaylo: Tetiana, the deputies adopted and the President signed the law, which determined the concept of censorship. How do you think, will this law facilitate the work of journalists?

Tetiana Montian: I think that this is a mere declaration and nothing more. It is very good that this law was adopted, but it seems doubtful to me that it will have some practical use, especially after the new Civil Code will come into force. You see, there are too many contradictions. Judges will have the opportunity to use one norm in one case, and another norm – in another case. And all this will be legal. In other words, the ambiguity of the legislation is purposefully created.

Nadiya Sherstiuk: The law on censorship that was mentioned above was signed recently by President Leonid Kuchma. This document introduces changes into several legal acts of Ukraine: the Administrative Code, the Laws “On information” and “On state support of mass media and social protection of journalists”. The changes concern both the rights of journalists and of citizens, in particular, the right for information.

Taras Marusik: For the first time the definition of censorship appeared in Ukraine legislation. The article that was added to the Law “On information” reads: “Censorship, as a demand to a mass medium, journalist, editor-in-chief, organization that publishes the mass media, founder (co-founder), publisher or distributor to agree the information before the publication… or impediment in any form to the distribution of information on the side of the organs of state power, organs of local self-rule and their officials, is prohibited”.

Besides, the Law envisages the criminal responsibility for deliberate impediment to the professional activities of journalists and persecutions of journalists for criticism committed by a state official or group of persons.

One of the main provisions of this law is the statement that nobody may be brought to responsibility for expressing the opinions.

The administration of the all-Ukrainian public organization “Association of lawyers of mass media” protested against this legislative innovation. On the eve of the signature of the law they sent the letter to President Kuchma with the demand to veto the law. By the way, this letter was not signed, although it is known that the Association is headed by Viktor Petrenko, a deputy head of the State Committee of radio and TV broadcasting.

I will quote an excerpt from this letter: “It is noteworthy that the Law of Ukraine “On information” was supplemented with new Article 47-1, part 3 of which states that a person must not be responsible for spreading the information with the restricted access, if the court would establish that this information is socially important”. Yet, this norm disagrees with the Criminal-Procedural Code, which envisages the criminal responsibility for divulging secret or confidential information. Besides, Article 32 of the Constitution of Ukraine prohibits to spread the information about a person without his/her consent”.

Mykola Tomenko, the head of the Supreme Rada Committee in charge of the freedom of speech and information, has another opinion.

Mykola Tomenko: I cannot agree with this statement, since the constitutional rights of citizens are indisputable, as well as democratic values, which must dominate over the restrictions in any country. Secret information also may be related to the restrictions. This is a very complicated problem. We are going to declassify a great amount of the information with the restricted access listed in the resolutions of the Cabinet of Ministers. I have already declassified the staff lists of Presidential administration, but the staff lists of tax administration and custom service still remain secret.

If a person spread some socially important information, and it would be proved that it is really socially important, then this person would be regarded as not guilty. A journalist or common citizen, who dares to publish some information, must be protected, if the goal of these actions is to communicate the truth to other people.

Radio “Liberty”, 1 May 2003, http://www.radiosvoboda.org

0pinions

08.04.2004

New Civil Code: journalists may only praise

   

If after the New Year an official would call you, for example, a fool, do not argue, because it would be the truth. If you do not believe, then read the new Civil Code that will come into effect at 1 January 2004.

Article 277: journalist has the right only to compliment or to… praise

Almost for twelve years Ukrainians live after the Civil Code (CC) of the UkrSSR, which “… regulates property and… personal non-property relations with the aim to create the material-technical base of communism…” (Article 1 of the operating CC). Probably, having such an experience, we would be able to adapt to the new CC, although I am sure that it would not be easy for everybody. If to ignore the economic constituent of the new CC and to analyze only the information one, the situation seems to be amusing and, at the same time, dreadful. The only thing is comforting: the experts acknowledge that the CC contains a number of defects.

The top line of the rating of absurd is occupied by Article 277 of the Code. It reads: “Any negative information spread about a person is regarded as false”. So, since 1 January journalists will be punished for any critical opinion worded by them: the journalists will be tried for the insult of “of honor, dignity and business reputation of physical or juridical person”, for which the compensation must be paid “with money, property or in other ways” (Article 23). At that “refutation of the untrue information is realized independently of the guilt of the person, who spread the information” (Article 277 again).

Besides, our court, which is, as everybody knows, the most independent court in the world, has the right, according to Article 278, to prohibit the publication of a newspaper, book, movie or TV feature, which are in the process of preparation, or to prohibit (stop) their distribution and even to seize the entire run with the aim to destroy it.

So, the owners of mass media, in order to avoid the problems, must get rid of the journalists, whose attitude to life is pessimistic and who do not think that all politicians are honest and kind. And the life of the fighters with censorship will become easier, because the censorship will stop to exist. Well, who would need the censorship, if Article 277 would exist?

Maybe, I misunderstood something because of the absence of juridical education. So, I turned to judge of Kyiv appeal court Yuri Vasilenko and advocate Tetiana Montian for the comments.

Tetiana Montian commented the possible consequences of the adoption of the new CC: “I think that it is obvious, which mass media will be sunk in a river next. Yet, after 1 January 2004 this will not be a brutal arbitrariness, but a court decision “based on the law”.

Judge Vasilenko added that one might guess what the legislators wanted to say in Article 277: “This norm should have the following form: “Negative information is regarded as false until it is proved with facts”. Yet, the legislators lacked for time, or wit, or the feeling of responsibility for their actions to formulate this idea more clearly. And maybe they had no desire to do this. Yet, now the judges, who fulfill the political orders, will have the opportunity to interpret this article with all predicted consequences”.

Well-known advocate Viktor Ageev shares this opinion: “I think that if this article would come into force, it would not be applied frequently. It is much convenient to fight against the freedom of speech by the illegal methods, such as “temniks”: these methods will not provoke so many scandals as the opened trials. Besides, we are dramatizing the situation too early, the Code is not operating yet, and everything can change, including the incorrect formulation of Article 277”.

Pardon for journalists

The next “hit” of the Civil Code is Article 302: “The information presented by an official in the framework of his service duties, as well as the information contained in the official sources (reports, shorthand records, messages of mass media founded by state organs or organs of local self-rule), is regarded as authentic”.

“This is a pardon for journalists and the guarantee that slanderous information will be published in mass media in spite of Article 277, which is intended for struggle against this shameful phenomena! The matter is that Article 302 also reads: “… physical person, which spreads such information, must not check its authenticity and must not be responsible in case of retraction”. Just imagine what orgy of the “freedom of speech” will begin after the New Year! Everything that will be said by state officials and deputies of all levels or printed in the corresponding press will be considered as truth, absolute and indisputable!”,  said Tetiana Montian.

Let us continue. The Code also contains comparatively pleasant innovations, such as Article 296(4):

“… the name of a physical person, which was detained, or which is suspected or accused of some crime, … may not be used (published) until the court verdict about his/her guilt comes into force”. So, since 1 January General Prosecutor Sviatoslav Piskun will have to refuse from the press conferences, at which he tells about the persons accused or suspected of the resonant crimes. Otherwise Pavlo Lazarenko would exhaust the state budget with the claims, since his honest name is mentioned today in rather bad context. And he would be absolutely right according to the new Code, since the American court has not issued the verdict yet, and, correspondingly, this verdict has not come into force.

Articles 301 (4) and 302 (1) must completely destroy the yellow press in Ukraine. The former article reads that “the details of the private life of a physical person may be divulged by other persons only if they contain the features of delinquency, which fact is confirmed with court decision”. The latter one states: “… spreading the information about private life of a physical person without his/her consent is inadmissible”. So, the editorial board of “Bulvar” would have to ask the permission of stars for printing some spicy details about their life or to wait until these stars would violate the Criminal Code or the norms of public moral, and this violation would be confirmed by court.

Why the MPs voted for the absurdities contained in the Civil Code?

Anatoliy Matvienko, an MP

The fraction “Block of Yulia Timoshenko” voted for the CC and one must not take this for a tragedy. The Parliament adopts the imperfect laws permanently, since the perfection is limitless. All world parliaments mainly work not at new laws, but at the amendments to old ones. It is good that you drew the attention to the absurd articles in the new CC, our bloc will lobby the changes to these articles.

Nestor Shufrich, an MP, the SDPU (u) fraction

I will not comment the Civil Code, because I am not a professional in this sphere. Valeriy Evdokimov, the head of the Committee in charge of legislative base of law-enforcing activities, dealt with this question in our fraction. The decision about the voting on the CC was not individually taken by every deputy, but by the fraction as a whole on the basis of the competent conclusions of Evdokimov. Yet, you told very interesting things, I shall read the Civil Code.

Vasyl Sirenko, an MP, the CPU fraction

The fraction of the Communist Party voted “for” the Code. Unfortunately, we committed the same mistake as Russians several years ago. We adopted the Code, which is very modern and liberal, but absolutely useless, because the Code is absolutely raw, despite the fact that it was elaborated during nine years.

Mykola Tomenko, the fraction “Nasha Ukraina”, the head of the Committee in charge of the freedom of speech and information

The fraction “Nasha Ukraina”, including me, did not vote on the Civil Code at all. In general, our committee did not deal with the CC and has no relation to these absurdities. Now I see that it is a pity that we did not work with the Code, now we will have to correct the situation.

The Code contains many articles that contradict the law on information, and sometimes these articles are merely absurd. So, they must be corrected. Besides, our committee plans to introduce some innovations. In particular, we are going to envisage the journalists’ right to publish the venturesome information, i.e. the information, which is not fully confirmed by facts, but which is of the public interest. It especially concerns the resonant cases – the public interests must be more important that the interests of the USS or investigation.

Viktor Shishkin, a member of the Supreme Council of Justice

The Civil Code is not, to put it mildly, a document of extra-class. Why it is so raw? Why the Supreme Rada approved the Code? Because everyone thinks that he is very clever.

Andriy Shkil, an MP, the BYT fraction

I did not vote for the Civil Code personally. The fraction took the decision to vote “for”, and other person voted with my card in my absence at the session. I know about all absurdities of the CC and it is a pity that I could not express my opinion about this question. Why the fraction voted “for”? I do not know. The voting on the Code took place at rather improper time – during the Christmas holidays, so the deputies had no time to familiarize with such great document containing more than 500 articles. Moreover, the sitting, at which the Code was adopted, was conducted on 15 January, on the next day after the Old New Year (one more New Year holiday, which is celebrated in Ukraine and Russia according to the old calendar. – Translator’s note). So, it is obvious that the number of MPs at the sitting was minimal, and the voting cards of the absent deputies were used by their colleagues by fractions. However, I am surprised by the fact that the fraction of Communists took the decision to vote “for” the Code. Usually the members of this fraction study all documents in details. At the same time, it is understandable why the socialists voted “against” the CC. Their fraction includes three judges, who could not miss and ignore such great amount of nonsense.

Oleksandr Zadorozhny, deputies’ group “Narodovladdia”, a representative of the President in the Supreme Rada

This Code was worked out during 10 years, so it was the time to adopt it. Why it contains so many absurdities? Because only three persons in the Supreme Rada read the Code. I do not think that any changes will be introduced before 1 January. The Code will be improved later, when the practice will demonstrate the drawbacks of some articles, so it will be reformed for years.

Mykhaylo Pavlovskiy, an MP, the BYT fraction

Of course, the CC must not contain the articles you quoted. Yet, I voted for this Code, since Ukraine needs the CC as such, and the negative moments can be corrected later. In general, such procedure is applied in the Parliament: great laws are approved in the first reading, and later they are analyzed and completed.

Viktor Ageev, a lawyer

It is too early to comment the Civil Code, since it has not come into effect yet. The Code is too raw now, and the work over it will be continued for a long time. Now the excited discussions are hold between the authors of the Code and MPs. One of the main problems of this document is that it was developed as a universal law.

In my opinion, the Civil Code of the Soviet times is, in spite of its obsolescence, more technically perfect, simple and logical, it contains the less number of contradictions and incorrect definitions. By the way, the new Code also includes some obsolete norms, such as the norms on bills and securities.

24 May 2003, Tetiana Chornovil, http://www.antenna.com.ua/main.php

The opinion of the editor of “Informatsiyny bulleten” (Kremenchug) about the appointment of the officer in charge of questions of the freedom of speech and information in the Poltava oblast

Recently the Poltava oblast mass media got the following message:

„To everybody concerned.

Respected sirs!

Mr. Sergey Kuliasov, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper “Kremenchugskiy Telegraf”, informs about his appointment to the post of the officer in charge of questions of the freedom of speech and information in the Poltava oblast (the sitting of the Supreme Rada Committee in charge of the questions of freedom of speech and information of 16 May 2003).

The duties of the officer are: the monitoring of the violations of the freedom of speech and information in the region, passing the information about the facts of impeding the work of journalists to head of the Committee Mykola Tomenko and other activities connected with the protection of the freedom of speech and information.

We propose to turn to the officer in charge of the questions of freedom of speech and information in the Poltava oblast with all questions connected with the violations of the Laws on the press and information, impeding journalists’ activities and violations of the freedom of speech in the oblast.

The address of the office: 50A, Shevchenko St., Kremenchug, the Poltava oblast, 39600.

Phone: (0536) 797149, 791048, e-mail: [email protected]

Sincerely yours, Sergey Kuliasov, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper “Kremenchugskiy Telegraf”, the officer in charge of the questions of freedom of speech and information in the Poltava oblast.

Tamara Prosianik, the editor of “Informatsiyny bulleten” expressed her opinion about this appointment:

“Respected Mr. Kuliasov!

I learned about your appointment to the post of the officer in charge of the questions of freedom of speech and information in the Poltava oblast from your letter after some delay, so I answer to you only now. It would be dishonest not to familiarize you with my opinion, since I have already expressed it to the members of the above-mentioned committee. And my opinion is rather critical. I hope that your pragmatism will allow you to understand it correctly.

I believe that, before the appointment of such officer, the Committee had to learn the opinion of the oblast journalists. If I were asked about the possible candidate to this post, I would name the journalists (journalists, and not the authorities connected with journalism), who made much for the victory of the freedom of speech in our oblast and continue to work. Among them I would name O. Kulik, the chief-editor of the newspaper “Poltavska dumka”, and L. Kucherenko, the head of the Poltava media-club. The functions mentioned by you, which you are going to fulfill as a new officer, are fulfilled by us for a long time. Media-club regularly publishes the Internet-bulletin, which describes the violations that you are only going to trace.

I reckon that passing to you the functions of the protector of the freedom of speech is UNTIMELY under the conditions existing in the Poltava oblast and in Ukraine as a whole. Maybe, such step would be reasonable later, when the criminal regime of L. Kuchma will be ruined, and the “rules of play” in the society, and in particular in the informational sphere, will become more honest and moral. Yet, now your appointment will not cause any positive results, most probably the results will be negative.

In order to preserve your edition you will have to make compromise (and, judging from the newspaper, you are already doing this). And the experience shows that such self-interested compromise is one of the obstacles in the way of the development of the freedom of speech. How are you going to fight for the freedom of speech in the oblast, where the authorities close the printing shops for publishing the opposition editions, where the fire and architectural services are forced to issue false conclusions, and law-enforcers – to fulfill the political orders? How are you going to influence the state officers of all levels, who prohibit the publication of some editions by the order of the governor? In your letter you wrote that you intended to inform head of the Committee M. Tomenko about the violations in the sphere of the press and information. Yet, whether some edition cannot do this without any “intermediaries”? For what this intermediary is needed? Maybe the goal is to show yourself against this informational background? It does not matter whether it is done for the sake of your own interests or public interests. My critical attitude to your candidature to this important post is based on the following arguments:

1. The attitude of the officer in charge of the freedom of speech to the processes occurring in the informational space must be unbiased. You will not be able to do this, since you head a media holding and a newspaper intended for the masses. This will not allow you to act resolutely, to call a spade a spade, which is very important now for the improvement of the situation with the freedom of speech in the Poltava oblast. Will you tell the truth about the reasons of the fact that some Poltava newspapers that objectively described the situation in the oblast stopped to be published, and other ones, which are still “alive”, must be printed in other oblasts almost illegally? Then, under the existing conditions of the total arbitrariness, the authorities will destroy your newspaper too. Or maybe you will find some other forms of struggle for truth? Yet, any other form, except the publicity, will be inefficient, and you will turn out to be a “player”, who accepted the “game rules” established by the power that does not need the freedom of speech at all.

2. Your activities before the appointment testified that you were not especially interested in the problems of the freedom of speech until this problem became extremely important both inside Ukraine and abroad. It is two very different things: to do something for the freedom of speech incurring anger of power at yourself, or merely to observe the state of the freedom of speech in the oblast and to pass the information to the corresponding agency. The officer fulfilling such functions will be very convenient for those, who do their best to liquidate the freedom of speech in the oblast.

3. And finally I want to say one more thing: you, Mr. Kuliasov is a good manager, a practical man, who will always prefer the profit to any other factors. Such factors as, for example, losses for the sake of justice, self-sacrifice in the name of truth, openness, etc. However, these factors are decisive today, since the freedom of speech is persecuted by the people, who have either the limitless power or the limitless amount of money. And everybody knows what are the sources of such money and power in our state. These people dictate their own rules. Immoral rules. Dishonest and corrupt rules. One can fight against them only with the traits they lack, but, judging from the position of your edition, you lack these traits too.

Thus, in spite of my respect to you, as to a competent official and a successful businessman in the sphere of journalism, and to your newspaper, I may not agree with your appointment to the post of the officer of the Supreme Rada Committee in charge of the freedom of speech and information. I regard your consent to occupy this post as a pragmatic attempt to increase your influence before the coming election. This is just another step towards the close contacts with the Supreme Rada, towards the improvement of your own future.

I think that the discussed post must be occupied by a journalist, who does not adjust himself to the existing level of readers’ needs, but tries to make the readers better – more intellectual, exigent, thinking and well-informed. There must be no prohibited topics, spheres or concepts for this journalist, not only in writing the materials, but also in any other activities (public, business, etc.). Unfortunately, I cannot relate you to such category of journalists, despite your business talent and active position.

Truly yours,
Tamara Prosianik,
The editor of the public-political weekly “Informatsiyny bulleten”

0pinions

08.04.2004

Interview with the editor-in-chief of the weekly “Ukraina-Tsentr” Efim Marmer about the situation with the freedom of speech in Ukraine

   

The weekly “Ukraina-Tsentr” has the status of an all-Ukrainian edition, although it is published in Kirovograd and distributed mainly in the Central Ukraine. At the end of this year “UT” will celebrate its tenth anniversary. Reprints from “UT” and refers to it regularly appear on various political and informational sites, and not only on the Ukrainian ones. Editor-in-chief of the weekly Efim Marmer became a rather well-known figure after the Parliament hearings on the freedom of speech in Ukraine.

His speech devoted to the problem of court persecutions of regional mass media was, in the opinion of the majority of his colleagues, one of the most acute moments of the discussion. Andrey Lubenskiy, a correspondent of “Pravda.Ru” put several questions to Efim Marmer.

-  Efim, you are a public consultant of the Parliamentary committee in charge of the questions of freedom of speech and information. So, let us begin from the “professional” questions. How do you estimate the situation with the freedom of speech in Ukraine?

-  It is absolutely adequate to the economic, social and cultural situation, which formed in Ukraine during the past 10 years. I categorically disagree with my colleagues, who try to represent the freedom of speech as the main problem of the modern Ukraine. Look, the place of Ukraine in the ratings by income per one inhabitant and other financial-economic indexes absolutely coincide with the place of the country in the lists of human rights protecting organizations. It should be naive to hope that the level of the freedom of speech in the country, where the clannish-oligarchic methods are used both in governing the country and in business and where the corruption became the norm of life, will agree with the European Charter of human rights.

-  Recently Leonid Kuchma got into the international list of “enemies of the press” again. Is it justly?

-  A man, who pretends to the role of the arbiter of the nation, must be responsible for the situation in his country not only before his people, but also before the international community. He must be responsible for his own errors and the neglect of the fourth power, as well as for the errors of his circle.

-  It is known that the General Prosecutor’s office of Ukraine started the criminal case against five provincial newspapers, which, by their publications, allegedly impeded Leonid Kuchma to fulfill his service duties. The President ordered to close the case, but, as far as we know, interrogations of the journalists are still conducted in spite of the obvious absurdity of the accusation. Some people reckon that the President was put in a spot by his circle, other ones – that he is the guilty. What do you think about this strange story?

-  I see nothing strange in this story: this is the modern PR in the Soviet interpretation. The problem lies not in the attempt of restricting the freedom of speech, but in the absence of elementary political culture and proper level of discussion. If the President at a press conference calls his opponents scumbags, this does not mean that everybody – journalists and politicians – must sink to the same level. Culture is a personal affair. This is true in journalism too.

-  The story with the rewarding of Vladimir Mostovoy, the editor-in-chief of the weekly “Zerkalo nedeli”, with the German premium “For freedom and future of mass media” is also interesting. Suddenly the President became interested in the reasons of the rewarding and ordered to the Ministry of Interior, USS and General Prosecutor’s office to take the appropriate steps for investigating the facts of the intimidations and persecutions of the “hero of the occasion”. And Vladimir Mostovoy said: “The problems that “Zerkalo nedeli” face are not very different from the problems, which independent mass media must solve in their everyday work: attacks on the investors, attempts to replace the owners, phone threats, ungrounded compensation sums, illegal institution of criminal cases – this is not the complete list of the methods applied to the disobedient editions”. How do you estimate the situation?

-  Let us, so to say, separate the problems. The fact that Germans rewarded Mostovoy is normal. Whom else they had to reward? The merits of Mostovoy are indisputable, and these people never went further than Kyiv.

The “concern for people” realized by the President, which was, I am sure, invented by Sergey Vasilyev (the head of the informational directorate of President’s Administration. – Editor’s note) and his clique, is merely ridiculous. So, if the law-enforcers would not find the “offenders” of Mostovoy, he would have to return the premium? And the authority of the German protectors of the freedom of speech would be ruined forever? It seems that the authorities still cannot understand that the relations of the press and the power is not a box and even not a chess game.

As to the reaction of V. Mostovoy, the form of the answer demonstrates clearly who is the intellectual elite in our country, and the essence of the answer absolutely correctly demonstrates the situation in the media space of Ukraine. During the ten years of the existence of “Ukraina-Tsentr” we omitted not a single item from “Mostovoy’s list”; in some cases the situations were very serious, and sometimes the problems were solved rather peacefully.

-  You are heading a provincial weekly. What can you say about the present situation with the regional press?

-  The situation is similar with one of the provincial business. There are some successful editions, some editions controlled by the power, and editions that are completely financed by somebody.

The district communal editions are dying. State-owned editions live owing to subsidies, they have permanent problems with “Ukrpochta” (the state post company. – Translator’s note): the services of this company are very expensive, and the level of writing off is stably high (practically independently of runs), which raises doubts in the naturalness of the situation. The development of the own distribution network is unprofitable because of high taxes and the enormous number of other payments. All this happens on the background of the total decrease of the interest to the printed word…

-  How often you, as an editor and a journalist, came across the facts of censorship?

-  The displays of censorship, as well as, for instance, corruption, are various. Thus, it should be senseless to try to measure or to estimate (often-rare, much-little) the censorship. Yet, censorship exists, it must exist in our society. But the matter is not in the frequency and efficiency of the pressure on editors (journalists), but in the presence or absence of moral principles, in the weakness or solidity of your spine.

-  The most difficult problem for me in the recent years was the ruinous claims against “Ukraina-Tsentr”. The maniacal aversion to any “non-sanctioned” mention of the names of ambitious officials or politicians frequently results in the absolutely inadequate consequences. We felt all “merits” of our local justice on our own experience during the consideration of the last suit brought against us by the head of the local court, who had been an unsuccessful candidate at the election-2002. The corporative unity of our court power is striking – journalists may only be envious of it. I am astonished with the easiness, with which the “victims” evaluate their “moral sufferings”. In the case of “UT” the initial sum was 500 thousand hryvnas. At the same time, the district court headed by our opponent considered the scores of cases, when the compensation sums paid to the families of the perished (in road accidents, at plants, as a result of robberies) were equal to 2-3 thousand hryvnas. Yet, when the affair concerns mass media and “moral sufferings” of the influential persons, the tariffs increase sweepingly. It is obvious that the purpose of such claims is to destroy the newspaper.

Now the cassation of “UT” is in the Supreme Court, and we hope that the judges of the Court will be able to disregard the high post of our opponent.

I do not want to finish out dialog about the freedom of speech with the answers to the traditional questions: “Who is guilty?” and “What must we do?” Every honest and competent journalist knows these answers. So, let us solve the problems jointly in the order of their appearance.

Andrey Lubenskiy, «PRAVDA.Ru»

0pinions

08.04.2004

The opinion of the head of the Main directorate of the informational policy of President’s Administration about the “specialists in smear”: “They turn our citizens to zombies giving them the distorted notion of our country… They do not understand what patriotism is…”

   

In the end of February the sitting of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe was hold in Strasbourg. Sergey Vasilyev, the head of the Main directorate of the informational policy of President’s Administration, Sergey Kichigin, the editor of the Ukrainian weekly “2000”, and Mikhail Pogrebinskiy, the manager of the Kyiv Center of political research and conflictology, were present at the sitting as Ukrainian experts on the freedom of speech.

From S. Vasilyev’s interview:

“… It should be good, if Ukrainian citizens did not believe the “crocodile tears” of the “victims of political censorship”, who live at the expense of the many-thousand foreign grants…

I heard that the foundation “Vidrodjennia” financed their visit to Strasbourg. And the principle of the choice of candidates was simple and approved: the delegation included only the specialists in smearing our country abroad. After the return from Strasbourg I classified them as “the trade union of independent nightmen”. They pump all mud and shit, which they can find in Europe and America, to the informational space of Ukraine. This is their main work. They, so to say, turn our citizens to zombies giving them the distorted notion of our country, which allegedly exists in the opinion of the whole world. This “trade union” is absolutely independent of any moral obligations to their motherland, their people, the principles of journalists’ ethics and common citizens’ ethics. They do not understand what patriotism is…

I asked my interlocutors from the Council of Europe: “Whether you really do not see that you are fooled, that they are earning money on you? They are misusing your lack of information. The group of dishonest journalists tries to snatch out a part of the budget, which you intended to spend for the good of Ukraine. Turn these impostors out! They do not represent anybody’s interests, except their own financial interests”.

… The Center of Razumkov… misleads the public opinion with the data of sociological polls, according to which the majority of common Ukrainian citizens are very worried with the existence of censorship in the country…”

 («Kievskie vedomosti», 5 March 2003)

0pinions

08.04.2004

The head of the State Committee in charge of TV and radio broadcasting appeals to mass media: “Do not denigrate our country for the sake of somebody’s interests”

   

Ivan Chizh, the head of the State Committee in charge of information, TV and radio broadcasting:

“I have no data on the cases of the illegal persecution of the opposition mass media or of their closure because of political reasons. This confirms the real existence of the freedom of speech in Ukraine. However, 32 orphans, children of the perished journalists, live now in Ukraine, and the deaths of these journalists are unfoundedly connected with the political persecutuions. Thereupon I appeal to all workers of mass media to be objective. Do not seek for the non-existent sensations, do not fan the non-existent political scandals. Do not denigrate our country for the sake of somebody’s interests. You must elucidate the events objectively, even if you are working off somebody’s grants…”

Ivan Chizh mentioned an interesting fact. Recently a group of journalists from the central channel of the Hungarian TV asked to give them the interview. The questions were rather acute: about the notorious cases of murders of journalists, the alleged persecutions of the free press, etc. The reporter got the answers, with which he was completely satisfied.

According to the words of the correspondent of the Hungarian TV, the image of Ukraine as a totalitarian state is created by some Ukrainian journalists and politicians, but henceforth he will not believe them.

 («Kievskie vedomosti», 15 May 2003)

Self-regulation

08.04.2004

Kyiv independent media trade union initiates the discussion of the criteria of obtaining press-cards

   

This decision was taken at the sitting of the committee of the trade union. The media trade union informed that the committee had several opinions about the criteria of obtaining press-cards. In particular, one part of the committee believes that the membership in the trade union must be the only criteria. Other members of the committee believe that to get such card a member of the trade union must practice journalism professionally.

The UNIAN informs that Kyiv independent media trade union (KIMTU) develops the procedure of giving special IDs (press cards) to independent journalists. These cards will confirm the professional status of the journalists. The press-cards will be used for the accreditation in the organs of state power.

The KIMTU pointed out that the independent journalists, who have no editorial IDs, have the problems with accreditation, as well as the workers of Internet-editions, who are not regarded as subjects of legislation on mass media.

The members of the trade union committee explained that the legislation envisages, in particular, the accreditation of a journalist in the presence of the documents confirming his professional status or by the recommendation of a professional union of journalists.

Thus, the KIMTU is going to propose to the workers of Internet-editions and independent journalists to obtain the press-card of the trade union, which would confirm their personality, status of journalist and meet the requirements of operating laws and press-services of power organs. Such card would be considered as recommendation of journalists’ union and confirm the professional specialization of its owner. The procedure of issuing the press-cards and the list of the documents needed for getting the cards is now developed.

The trade union is also going to agree with proper state organs the form and procedure of giving the press-cards to independent journalists, as well as the procedure of permanent or temporary accreditation.

The Poltava oblast media-club. Electronic bulletin
"The freedom of speech. The Poltava oblast”, No. 23, 30 April 2003

Self-regulation

08.04.2004

Special account is created for the support of Bukovina newspaper “Chas”

   

05 May 2003

Bukovina independent newspaper “Chas”, which lost the case started after the claim of Oleksandr Semenko, a former head of the directorate for fighting organized crime and corruption, announced the whip-round for the support of the edition that, according to the court decision, must pay compensation equal to 50 thousand UAH.

Leontiy Sanduliak, a former Ukrainian ambassador in Romania, and Oleg Panchuk, a professor of the Chernivtsy national university, who initiated this action, told that the idea to open the special account appeared when the readers began to bring money to the office of the newspaper.

The action will last from 8 to 25 May. During this time the decision will be appealed in the oblast Appeal court. If the court of higher instance would cancel the decision, then the collected money would be stored on the special account of the fund, which would be controlled by the supervision council. These money will be used for the support of independent mass media – newspapers, radio and TV companies, which will undergo some punitive sanctions for their work.

The Institute of mass information, http://imi.org.ua/

Self-regulation

08.04.2004

The declaration of the Guild of Odessa correspondents of central mass media

   

“Instead of investigating the real facts of persecutions of journalists, the Ukrainian power tries to discredit Vladimir Mostovoy, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper “Zerkalo nedeli”, with its ostentatious care”, reads the declaration of the Guild of Odessa correspondents of central mass media adopted on 28 May 2003.

The UNIAN correspondent communicates that the document, in particular, states: “The Guild of Odessa correspondents of central mass media regards the persecution of the V. Mostovoy organized by the oligarchic forces as just another attempt to disorient the Ukrainian public by discrediting the leader of an independent edition” (UNIAN: V. Mostovoy became a laureate of the premium “For freedom and future of mass media”. It was pointed out in the notification about the reward that V. Mostovoy had to work “under the conditions of intimidation and permanent persecution”. After this Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma ordered to the Ministry of Interior, USS and General Prosecutor’s office to investigate the facts of the intimidations and persecutions of the editor-in-chief of “Zerkalo nedeli” and to guarantee the safety of the journalist from the probable criminal attempts.)

The members of the Guild of Odessa correspondents of leading Kyiv, Moscow and other editions do not conceal that they admire “the incontrovertible professional and moral authority of V. Mostovoy, who was elected to the post of the Commission on journalists’ ethics”, and believe that his rewarding with the premium “For freedom and future of mass media” was fully deserved.

“We are astonished by the cynicism of the power, which “does not notice” the numerous persecutions of the journalists, in particular, in the South regions, in Bukovina and Donbass, threats addressed to them, infringement of their professional rights, unclosed ordered murders, etc.”, states the appeal approved by the assembly of the Guild. “Yet, the top authorities try to create the illusion of almost paternal care for the safety of V. Mostovoy, who, by the way, never turned for help to law-enforcing organs”.

“On the contrary”, the documents reads, “frequently the publications of rather influential “ZN” protect regional mass media and journalists from the arbitrariness of the officials; for example, recently the repressions against the newspaper “Veksel” were stopped in that way”. “However”, the authors of the decparation state, “it is not always possible to achieve the triumph of justice under the conditions of the unpunished persecution and intimidation of independent mass media. One of the examples is the attack at the journalist of the TV company “Odessa plus” and the traditional intentional retardation of the investigation.

The assembly of the Guild discussed the situation that was formed around the company “Odessa plus”: one of the workers of the company had been taken to hospital after a criminal attack, and TV journalists Leonid Suchshenko, Nina Zaytseva and others were intimidated by phone. The strangers threatened the journalists with the attack at them or arson of the TV company, if the company would not stop the broadcasting of the features “on the problems of city municipal economy”.

The journalists were also indignant at the latest fact of intimidation: on 28 May three strangers rushed into the editorial office of the newspaper “Rabota i otdykh” (“Work and rest”). They passed to Oleksandr Reva, the editor of this opposition edition, the propositions from their “acquaintances”: “It should be better for you to leave this affair, so work and rest. They would find you, if they wanted!” O. Reva thinks that these threats are connected with the publication in his newspaper of the request of MP Oleksiy Kazachenko to law-enforcing organs about the attack at the journalist of “Odessa plus”.

Oleksandra Mizina. UNIAN
The Institute of mass information, 29 May 2003

Freedom of Expression in Ukraine, 2003, №05

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