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2003

Freedom of Expression in Ukraine

General data

08.04.2004

Statistics of the attacks on the workers of mass media

   

During last year the Ministry of Interior of Ukraine received 132 messages about the incidents connected with the workers of mass media, 88 criminal cases were started on these incidents. Mikhail Kornienko, the first deputy of the State secretary of the Ministry of Interior, said at the sitting of the round table “The observance of human rights in Ukraine: international assessment” that 72% of the crimes against mass media workers were connected with the illegal encroachments on their property and 12% -- with hooliganism. Besides, M. Kornienko informed that militia finished the investigation of the premeditated crime of Vladimir Provorotskiy, an announcer of the Sumy oblast radio, committed last year. Three local inhabitants were detained, who organized the attack “with the aim to take the property of the victim”.

By the information of the UNIAN, M. Kornienko told that six journalists were murdered during the existence of the independent Ukrainian state, and “the majority of these crimes were disclosed”.

(«Fakty», No. 105, 13 June 2003)

General data

08.04.2004

Statistics of Ukrainian censorship

   

According to the data of the Institute of mass information, from 1996 to 2002 the indirect censorship in Ukraine was most often practiced by the following state agencies:  tax organs (14 cases), prosecutor’s offices (15 cases), local administrations (20 cases), militia (21 cases) and organs of judicial power (22 cases).

Sometimes the inadequate actions concerning the freedom of speech were realized by such allegedly apolitical institutions as state publishing houses and fire inspection.

The overwhelming majority of the cases of physical pressure, attacks, intimidation and murders were committed by “strangers”.

In the end of 2002 the experts of the Council of Europe stated that the licensing of the activities of mass media “is not sufficiently transparent”, and that the National council in charge of TV and radio broadcasting “has not the sufficient guarantees for independent activities”.

According to the data of the Fund of the protection of glasnost, 70% of the claims on the protection of honor and dignity are obviously lacking in conscientiousness and are directed, first of all, for the suppression of the freedom of speech. On the basis of these data ombudsperson Nina Karpacheva declared that the main principle of the court practice concerning the mass media was the protection of reputation of some persons, but not the protection of the freedom of speech and opinions, and that this principle contradicted the European practices.

(«Demokratichna Ukraina», No. 34, 6 May 2003)

General data

08.04.2004

Are the mass media of the Lugansk oblast independent?

   

This year the Lugansk public committee for human rights protection conducts the investigation of the level of freedom of local newspapers. The investigation is conducted in the framework of the project “Consulting and informing peasants through district newspapers” and is financially supported by National Endowment for Democracy and Foundation of the development of Ukrainian mass media at the USA Embassy, Kyiv.

We have already disclosed some problems, the existence of which may be interpreted as the almost complete dependence of district newspapers on local power organs.

This dependence has the political and economic character: after the election-2002 the systematic process of replacing the owners of the newspapers began in the oblast. Before this the newspapers were founded, as a rule, by journalists (journalists’ collectives) or editorial collectives and district councils. This year (in fact, the process began in autumn of the last year), according to the decision of the local councils, the journalists’ collectives were removed from the composition of founders of eight out of seventeen district newspapers. In four of these newspapers the place of journalists was occupied by state administrations:

 

Newspaper

District

Founder

1

“Slavianoserbskie Visti”

Slavianoserbskiy

District council

2

“Visti Bilovodshchiny”

Belovodskiy

District council

3

“Slovo khliboroba”

Melovskoy

District council

4

“Radianske slovo”

Markovskiy

District council

5

“Peremoga”

Novopskovskiy

District council and administration

6

“Vestnik Novoaydarshchiny”

Novoaydarskiy

District council and administration

7

“Popasnianskiy vestnik ”

Popasnianskiy

District council and administration

8

“Trudovaya slava”

Lutuginskiy

District council and administration

Most probably this tendency will result in the complete estrangement of journalists from the ownership of newspapers and absolute economic dependence of journalists’ collectives on district administration.

During the monitoring of local newspapers it appeared that the majority of the newspapers work not for readers, but for administration: they contain the information pleasant for the authorities, but almost do not write about the urgent problems of the districts, such as the violations of property rights in the course the agrarian reform. This is the reason of scanty runs: 3-5 thousands.

The committee concluded the agreements with the editors of two district newspapers (“Antratsitovskiy vestnik” and “Vestnik Novoaydarshchiny”) about the creation of the consulting centers at the editorial boards. The editors were summoned to the administration. They got the “recommendations” not to cooperate with the committee, since this project was allegedly financed by the political opposition (!). The representatives of Novoaydarskiy district administration insistently inquired me about my political orientation, they asked “for whom I had been working” during the previous election campaign, and who financed the committee now.

The reason of this situation is trivial: numerous violations of the rights, especially in the property sphere, must not, in the interests of the corrupted bureaucrats, be elucidated by the newspapers and discussed by public.

Under such conditions of censorship (or self-censorship) and the absence of freedom the protest reactions are inevitable, either in the form of delitescent conflict or in the open form. For example, for more than a year one of the courts considers the claim of V. Poydin, the editor of the Novopskovsk newspaper “Peremoga” against the district administration in the connection with the illegal persecutions after the publication of an article criticizing the district authorities for corruption.

Nikolay Kozyrev, the Chairman of the board of the Public committee for protecting the constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens, Lugansk

Persecutions, pressure, intimidation, etc. because of political motives

08.04.2004

Check of libraries by D. Tabachnik’s commission

   

Mykola Tomenko, the Head of the Supreme Rada Committee in charge of the freedom of speech and information, insists on the necessity of checking the facts of the violations of laws during the acquisition of library funds, in particular, with the opposition printed mass media. The Supreme Rada endorsed Tomenko’s request to General Prosecutor Sviatoslav Piskun and Prime-Minister Viktor Yanukovich. Tomenko suspects that the workers of the libraries got the orders concerning the subscription to the periodicals, and this was a brutal violation of the norms of the Constitution and other Ukrainian laws.

A number of libraries were checked at the beginning of this year by the special commission headed by Dmytro Tabachnik. The commission acted on the basis of President’s Order of 31 October 2002 on the commission for the complex check of the funds of libraries, archives and museums of Ukraine.

(«Ukraina moloda», No. 108, 18 June 2003)

Persecutions, pressure, intimidation, etc. because of political motives

08.04.2004

Editor-in-chief of the newspaper “Rzhyshchiv” Oleg Predanchenko was forced to leave his work, since his position on the political reform disagreed with the “official tack” of the local power.

   

Editor-in-chief of the newspaper “Rzhyshchiv” Oleg Predanchenko was forced to leave his work, since his position on the political reform disagreed with the “official tack” of the local power. He told about this at a press conference. Predanchenko explained that on 4 April he took part in the sitting of the round table devoted to the political reform. Being the head of the Rzhyshchiv town organization of the Green Party, he expressed the position of the party on this question. The journalist says that his speech provoked the inadequate reaction of the organizers. In particular, Alla Khrimenko, the manager of the town executive committee, who chaired the round table, stated that he had no right for the position that disagreed with the “official tack”, since he was the editor-in-chief of the town newspaper. On 7 April O. Predanchenko was summoned to Rzhyshchiv mayor Mykola Spychak. The mayor said that Predanchenko could not occupy the post of the editor of the town newspaper, since he did not share the political views published in the newspaper by the local power. On 12 May O. Predanchenko was summoned to the mayor again, and after this he was forced to hand the appeal about the dismissal from the post of the editor-in-chief of the newspaper “Rzhyshchiv”.

(«Silski visti», No. 73, 26 June 2003)

Criminal attempts at journalists

08.04.2004

Attempt on the life of the editor of the newspaper “Tikhiy zhakh” (The appeal of the Poltava media club)

   

Today, on 17 June 2003, at 2 a.m. the attempt on the life of the family of Vasyl Koriak, the editor of the newspaper “Tikhiy zhakh”, was committed. V. Koriak is the author of a series of critical articles about Poltava governor E. Tomin that were published in the newspaper “Informatsiyny bulleten”. Three gunshots were fired at his house in Lubny, two bottles with Molotov’s cocktail were thrown into the windows.

Koriak informed that several days before this incident, after the second article about E. Tomin titled “The face of horde” had been published in “Informatsiyny bulleten”, two men visited him. They told that they were the representatives of the Poltava oblast administration and asked him to stop the criticism of the governor. They proposed either a great sum of money or the post of the head of the oblast Pension fund. Koriak refused categorically. He said that he could not sell his consciousness, and that the local dwellers had the right to know about the worthlessness of the people, who governed them. Then these two men said that the journalist would regret.

Unfortunately, the threats were realized soon. Vasyl Koriak is sure that the attempt on his life and the life of his family was ordered by Evhen Tomin, the head of the Poltava oblast administration.

We turn to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, who is the guarantor of the constitutional rights of citizens, and to General Prosecutor of Ukraine S. Piskun with the demand to guarantee the safety of Poltava journalists, to stop the political censorship in its more dangerous form – physical destruction of those, who write the truth unpleasant for state officials, to find and punish the executors of this terrible crime and those, who ordered it.

17 June 2003

Per procurationem – President of the Poltava media club Ludmila Kucherenko, [email protected]

Criminal attempts at journalists

08.04.2004

The investigation of the disappearance of Aleksandr Panich, a journalist of the newspaper “Donetskie novosti”, is finished

   

Some fragments of dismembered body of the journalist were find in Kalmius river on 11 June, informed Donetsk prosecutor Aleksandr Olmezov.  The 36-year-old journalist of the weekly disappeared on 17 November 2002. The prosecutor told that the investigation proved: Panich was murdered by his friends during a simple quarrel. The murderers, two young men having no permanent job, were detained in the Cherkassy oblast. According to the words of the Donetsk prosecutor, a quarrel occurred between the victim and the suspected. As a result, Panich got several blows in the head with a hammer. Next day his body was cut to pieces and thrown to the river.

(«Segodnia», No. 132, 17 June 2003)

***

Aleksandr Olmezov told that during the investigation more than 200 witnesses were interrogated, 70 searches and 10 expertises were conducted. After this two suspected were detained and soon they showed the place, where they hide the body of their victim.

(«Ukraina moloda», No. 108, 18 June 2003)

Criminal attempts at journalists

08.04.2004

Robbery of K. Yanovskiy and I. Grach (Zhytomir)

   

On the Day of Journalists Konstantin Yanovskiy, the senior director of the Zhytomir TV and radio company, and announcer Irina Grach underwent the attack committed by two strangers. The criminals knocked the journalists down, and took their cell phones, money and car keys. Militiamen doubt that it was a political action.

(«Segodnia», No. 130, 13 June 2003)

Criminal attempts at journalists

08.04.2004

Attack on Vladimir Belov (Dnepropetrovsk)

   

Vladimir Belov, a 32-year-old correspondent of the public-political newspaper “Nasha zemlia” (Dnepropetrovsk), was attacked at home and taken to the local hospital with 15 knife wounds. The investigation of the crime is carried out.

(«Segodnia», No. 129, 12 June 2003)

***

The edition “Litsa”, where Vladimir Belov also works, is regarded in region as a radically oppositional newspaper, the activities of which are directed against the present state power. Oksana Zarayska, a representative of the Dnepropetrovsk branch of the Union of journalists, believes that there were no grounds for the political persecution of the journalist.

(«Ukraina moloda », No. 105, 12 June 2003)

Criminal attempts at journalists

08.04.2004

The attempt of arson of the flat of Oles Buzina (Kyiv)

   

25 June 2003. In the night of 25 June in Kyiv some strangers tried to commit the arson of the flat of Oles Buzina, a journalist of the newspaper “Kievskie vedomosti”. Owing to the quick reaction of Buzina and the help of neighbors, the fire was extinguished. Only the front door was partially burned. In the opinion of militia, the criminals poured some paint on the door and set fire to it. The journalist believes that the arson was connected with his professional activities, since at the last trial against “Prosvita” in the appeal court he heard the undisguised threats concerning him. Oles Buzina had been attacked by extremists after the publication in the newspaper “Kievskie vedomosti” of excerpts from the book “Vampire Taras Shevchenko”. The editorial board reminded that on 26 June there would be the four-year anniversary of the newspaper publication of Buzina’s research about Shevchenko. On 25 June the Shevchenkivskiy district militia directorate of Kyiv started a criminal case according to Article 194 part 2 – premeditative destruction or damage of property by arson.

The Institute of mass information, “Barometr svobody slova”, June 2003


Criminal attempts at journalists

08.04.2004

Attack on Yuri Iliuchenko (Kirovograd)

   

 25 June 2003. In early hours of the morning of 25 June Yuri Iliuchenko, a sports reporter of the weekly “Ukraina-Tsentr”, was beaten and robbed near his house in Kirovograd.

Efim Marmer, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper, informed that the journalist was returning from the business trip, from Kyiv, where he went together with the soccer team “Zirka” (Kirovograd). The team bus took the journalist almost to the house, but in the doorway he was attacked by strangers, who hit him on the head and knocked him down. The attackers took his handbag with dictaphone, purse and documents. Doctors diagnosed the cerebral brain concussion of medium degree, fracture of leg, numerous injuries, haematomas on face and chest. A criminal case was started after the fact of the attack, the investigation is controlled by major-general Stanislav Nikitenko, the head of the militia directorate of the Kirovograd oblast. Editor of “Ukraina-Tsentr” Efim Marmer believes that the incident was merely criminal.

The Institute of mass information, “Barometr svobody slova”, June 2003

Criminal attempts at journalists

08.04.2004

The investigation of the attack on Oleksandr Pomoynitskiy (the Kyiv oblast) 23 June 2003

   

23 June 2003. The Institute of mass information turned to Mr. Gaysinskiy, the prosecutor of the Kyiv oblast, with the request about the investigation of the case started after the attack on Oleksandr Pomoynitskiy, a journalist of the newspaper “Dilovy Pereyaslav”. The materials concerning the attack on the journalist were passed by the IMI to the General Prosecutor’s office. By the opinion of Svetlana Pomoynitska, the wife of the victim, the investigation of the case is reaching a deadlock. The militiamen behave discourteously during the interrogations, searches and checking the versions. The contents of the interrogations and the ODA as a whole are actively discussed in the town. This confirms that the militiamen divulge the details of the pre-trial investigation. In the complaint addressed to the prosecutor of the Kyiv oblast S. Pomoynitska described the offences committed by the law-enforcers during the month that passed since the attack on her husband. As it became known to the IMI from its sources in the prosecutor’s office, today the investigation has two versions: the attack was ordered either by the competitors in business or by mass media-competitors. We want to remind that the incident happened on 26 May about 8 a.m. not far from the house of Oleksandr Pomoynitskiy. In the presence of many witnesses two strangers attacked the journalist and began to beat him with clubs wrapped in newspapers. Journalist’s wife Svetlana tells that the witnesses saw how the attackers got into a blue “Opel”, which was waiting for them near the place of crime. She believes that this fact confirms that the attack was thoroughly planned. Oleksandr Pomoynitskiy was taken to a hospital with cranium trauma and numerous haematomas. S. Pomoynitska informs that the state of her husband remains, according to the words of doctors, “serious and stable”. The case was started after Article 121 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (premeditated serious bodily injuries).

The Institute of mass information, “Barometr svobody slova”, June 2003


Restrictions of the access to information

08.04.2004

Judge Kovaliov: “Turn off your dictaphone!» (Lugansk)

   

Journalists frequently become the victims of the arbitrariness of judges, who do not permit them to use the audio- and video-recording equipment, thus impeding the fulfillment of their professional activities. At that some judges even do not bother themselves with the observance of procedural norms, which demand to issue the resolution about the prohibition to a journalist to use, for example, a dictaphone.

According to the law on court (Article 9) a judge may not issue such prohibition during an open consideration of a case (although he may prohibit to use the stationary recording equipment). Nevertheless, such practice of judges’ arbitrariness does exist, and a bright example of this is the document quoted below: the appeal by journalist Ludmila Sokolenko (a participant of this project) to the prosecutor about bringing judge Kovaliov to criminal responsibility.

 

APPEAL

on the commitment of a crime

 

On 6 April 2001 I was present at an open court sitting of the Zhovtnevy district court of Lugansk. The court considered the case of Shcherbatiuk and Zverev. Judge A. Kovaliov was the chairman.

I was fulfilling my professional duty, since in March 2003 Vera Gavrilenko, a grandmother of Shcherbatiuk, turned to me with the complaint against the unjust treatment of the accused during the inquiry and pre-trial investigation, and asked me to be present at the trial. Being a journalist, I had to collect the information on the course of the trial.

I was also present at the previous sitting that took place on 31 March 2003. Before the trial I entered the office of judge A. Kovaliov, introduced myself, showed him my journalist’s ID and said that I was interested in this consideration and the lot of Evgeniy Shcherbatiuk, who had a difficult life, since he was an orphan.

During the trial of 6 April 2003 I stayed all the time in the courtroom and made records in my notebook. After a break, at 1 p.m., when V. Gavrilenko was interrogated as a witness, I used dictaphone for obtaining more complete and reliable information.

Approximately at 13:40 the court secretary noticed that I used the dictaphone and said about this to judge Kovaliov. Judge Kovaliov ordered me to stop the audio recording. He did not perform any procedural actions – he merely cried roughly: “Turn off your dictaphone!»

After this I stood up and asked to explain to me, a journalist, who fulfilled the professional duty, what offence I had committed, if the court did not issue any resolution on the prohibition to audio record the court process or on some other restrictions of the openness of the trial.

Judge Kovaliov explained nothing and demanded to present the dictaphone to the court. I objected that it was my work tool and personal property. Then Kovaliov ordered the guards to take away the dictaphone by force, and I told to the court about the responsibility for impeding the journalistic activities in the accordance with Article 171 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.

Judge A. Kovaliov ordered me to leave the courtroom. I repeated that I did not violate the order of the court sitting and declared: “I will go away if you would explain me, what offence I committed”. Yet, judge Kovaliov gave no explanations again and repeated his order in the hysterical tone. I had to obey.

Thus, A. Kovaliov, a judge the Zhovtnevy district court of Lugansk, impeded my professional journalistic activities, and his actions contained the features of the crime envisaged by Article 171 of the CC of Ukraine.

I know that I may be called to account for false accusations.

I ask to bring to criminal responsibility judge A. Kovaliov. I ask to interrogate the following witnesses: Vera Gavrilenko (14/3 Shevchenko block, Lugansk, tel. 63-82-89) and Vladimir Goncharov (2/37 Alekseeva block, Lugansk, tel. 53-87-09)

7 May 2003  

L. Sokolenko

***

The most interesting detail in this situation is that the prosecutor was silent till 12 June, and then he informed the journalist (the message was signed on 12 May) that her complaint against the arbitrary actions of the judge was not a sufficient ground for the institution of a criminal case, so he forwarded the complaint (prosecutor Naydysh do not comprehend the difference between a complaint and an appeal!) to the oblast court for taking the appropriate disciplinary measures. Thus, the following rights were violated: a) the right of the participants of the process for open consideration of the case; b) the right of the journalist to obtain and spread the information. These rights were not restored, “because of the absence of criminal event”.

There is another significant fact: the above appeal by the journalist to the prosecutor’s office was the first case in the oblast, when a journalist tried to bring a judge to responsibility for violating the right for the professional activities.

***

One more aspect of the non-freedom of mass media is the discrimination of journalists in the access to information.

The practice exists in the Lugansk oblast of the administrative selection of journalists and mass media by the criteria of the level of loyalty to state officials. For example, only “tame” journalists, who never published critical materials, are invited to the official press conferences of the head of the oblast administration.

Such practice is also applied, when various official actions are conducted. For example, when the President of Ukraine visits the oblast, not every journalist has the happy opportunity to approach to the first person of the state. And the right to put questions at the press conferences is rendered only to specially selected loyal journalists, who may ask only the questions prepared and given to them beforehand. Such segregation of journalists in the communication with the guarantor of our rights and freedoms is a common practice. Nobody is indignant with that, and nobody brings actions to court.

Thus, the problem lies in the fact that the journalists, who work in the Lugansk oblast mass media, especially in district ones, work under the conditions of the illegally restricted freedom and are not able to fulfill their public duties properly.

The following conclusions can be drawn from this thesis:

1.  We need the professional consolidation of journalists for the protection of the right to obtain, store and spread the information freely.

2.  We need the systematic legal support of journalists and mass media by means of regular juridical consultations.

3.  We need the systematic informational provision of journalists with legal information – on the experience of human rights protection activities in the media-space, juridical practices, Ukrainian and international experience of struggle for the freedom of speech, legal standards (Ukrainian and international), practices of the European court in the context of Article 10 of the European Convention, etc.

Nikolay Kozyrev, the Chairman of the board of the Public committee for protecting the constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens, Lugansk

Meddling into professional activities of journalists and mass media

08.04.2004

On the dismissal of Georgiy Teron, the general manager of the Chernivtsy oblast state TV and radio company

   

From the open letter of I. Lubchenko, the head of the TV company, to Ivan Chizh, the head of the State committee in charge of TV and radio broadcasting

According to the order issued by the committee headed by you, Georgiy Teron, the general manager of the Chernivtsy oblast state TV and radio company, was dismissed from his post.

The formal cause for the dismissal was the end of the term of the contract with G. Teron. I am saying “formal”, since both the administration of the Union of independent journalists of Ukraine and the workers of Bukovina mass media, as well as our colleagues throughout the country, know about the long-lasting conflict between Teofil Bauer, the head of the Chernivtsy oblast administration, and journalists.

The conflict between the Chernivtsy governor and journalists, who are persistently fighting for their right to write and tell truth, reached its apogee when the journalists and members of their families organized the picket of the building of the oblast administration. G. Teron also took part in the picket. This fact aroused the ire of Mr. Bauer, who declared that the TV and radio company might not be headed by such radical journalists’ collective. And, as we see, he realized the idea. The order on the dismissal of G. Teron was issued even without the agreement of the council of general managers of TV and radio companies, although this had to be done according to the provisions on the council approved by the collegium of the committee headed by you.

It is a pity, but the State committee in charge of TV and radio broadcasting took the side of the state official in his conflict with the journalist.

On the same days, when the order on the dismissal of G. Teron was signed in Kyiv, Simferopol authorities fired Valeriy Nizovoy, the general manager of the TRC “Krym”. The cancellation of contracts also threatens the general managers of Dnepropetrovsk, Volyn and some other state TV and radio companies.

Unfortunately, your Committee is ruining the values that you have been declaring all the time.

(«Svoboda», No. 25, 24-30 June 2003)

Meddling into professional activities of journalists and mass media

08.04.2004

Dismissal of Igor Rudich, the editor of the TV feature “Territoria bezpeki”

   

The editor of the TV feature “Territoria bezpeki”, which is issued by the Ministry of Defense and broadcasted by the channel “UT-1”, was dismissed because of his refusal from censorship of the feature.

According to the words of I. Rudich, the feature of 8 June was issued with many deletions. He got the order to cut the comments of Viktor Yushchenko, the leader of the bloc “Nasha Ukraina”, and communist Georgiy Kriuchkov, the head of the Supreme Rada committee in charge of national security and defense, from the material about the dispatch of the Ukrainian peacemakers to Iraq. When Rudich refused to do this, he was dismissed. The ex-editor accused O. Tereverko, the Head of the Central TV and radio studio of the Ministry of Defense, and turned to the colleagues and public with the appeal to protect his feature from censorship.

(«Vecherniy Kharkov », No. 65, 19 June 2003)

Meddling into professional activities of journalists and mass media

08.04.2004

The Supreme Rada ordered the General Prosecutor’s office to investigate the facts of impeding the professional activities

   

The Supreme Rada of Ukraine endorsed the request of Mykola Tomenko, the Head of the Supreme Rada Committee in charge of the freedom of speech and information, about the facts of censorship and impediment to the professional activities of I. Rudich, the editor-in-chief of the TV feature “Territoria bezpeki”, a deputy of the executive editor of the analytic and publicistic features of the Main editorial board of TV features of the Central TV and radio studio of the Ministry of Defense. The request was sent to General Prosecutor of Ukraine S. Piskun and to Minister of Defense of Ukraine V. Shkidchenko.

The request reads that in his appeal to the Head of the Supreme Rada Committee in charge of the freedom of speech and information I. Rudich informed about the fact of the excision from the feature “Territoria bezpeki” (8 June 2003, 10:35 a.m., TV channel “UT-1”) of the records of the interviews with MPs Georgiy Kriuchkov and Viktor Yushchenko. This excision, according to the words of I. Rudich, was made by order of colonel O. Tereverko, the Head of the Central TV and radio studio of the Ministry of Defense. The latter insisted that the order agreed with the Statute of the Central TV and radio studio of the Ministry of Defense. On 9 June colonel O. Tereverko issued Order No. 45 “On the drawbacks in the work on the TV feature “Territoria bezpeki” of the Main editorial board of TV features”, in which he pointed out the “incomplete service competence” of I. Rudich, dismissed Rudich from the post of the editor-in-chief of the feature “Territoria bezpeki” and imposed a fine on him

In the deputy’s request Mykola Tomenko attracts the attention to the fact that the actions committed, according to I. Rudich, by the Head of the Central TV and radio studio of the Ministry of Defense are prohibited by the Constitution of Ukraine (Article 15) and the Law of Ukraine “On information” (Article 45-1). Besides, these actions, most probably, contain the signs of the crime envisaged by Article 171 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine “Impediment to the legal professional activities of journalists”. In the request M. Tomenko asked the General Prosecutor and the Minister of Defense:

-  To give the juridical assessment of the actions (also on the presence of the signs of the crime envisaged by Article 171 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine) of colonel O. Tereverko, the Head of the Central TV and radio studio of the Ministry of Defense, and to take, if necessary, the appropriate measures in the accordance with the operating laws.

-  To consider the question whether the Statute of the Central TV and radio studio of the Ministry of Defense agrees with the operating laws, in particular the Law of Ukraine “On information”.

-  To check the legality of the above-mentioned Order No. 45 of 9 June 2003 “On the drawbacks in the work on the TV feature “Territoria bezpeki” of the Main editorial board of TV features” issued by the Head of the Central TV and radio studio of the Ministry of Defense, and to take, if necessary, the appropriate measures for its cancellation.

-  To consider the question about restoring I. Rudich on the post of the editor-in-chief of the TV feature “Territoria bezpeki”.

-  To take measures for the restoration of other rights (including economic) of I. Rudich, which were violated as a result of his dismissal from the post of the editor-in-chief of the TV feature “Territoria bezpeki”.

-  To inform MP Mykola Tomenko about the results of the consideration of this request in the term stipulated by law.

17 June 2003, the information of the Public Council in charge of the freedom of speech, http://imi.org.ua/

Impediment to the production and distribution of mass media

08.04.2004

Seizure of the run of the newspaper “Svoboda”, No. 29 from the trading network of the agency “Soyuzdruk”

   

On 18 October 2000 Ya. Manarinskiy and A. Kraypiay, the officers of the Radiansky district militia directorate of Kyiv, seized the run of No. 29 the newspaper “Svoboda” from the trading network of the agency “Soyuzdruk” (a company-distributor of printed mass media. – Translator’s note).

Almost three years later O. Galynia, the head of precinct No. 1 of the Shevchenkivskiy (former Radiansky) district militia directorate of Kyiv, informed the editorial board that the seizure of the run of the newspaper was realized by the written order of the collegium of the General Prosecutor’s office of Ukraine. It is interesting that, after the results of the check of the contents of this issue, the Radiansky district prosecutor’s office took the decision on the refusal to start a criminal case on the basis of Article 6 item 2 of the Civil-Procedural Code of Ukraine (absence of corpus delicti).

Since March 2002 the prosecutor’s office of the Cherkassy oblast is illegally keeping the 107-thousand run of No. 11 of the newspaper “Svoboda”, and the investigation of the criminal case, on the basis of which the edition was seized from the printing shop “Respublika”, is still not finished.

(«Svoboda», No. 25, 24-30 June 2003)

Impediment to the production and distribution of mass media

08.04.2004

Kharkov militia confiscated from distributors the newspaper “Bez tsenzury”

   

17 June 2003. The editorial board of the edition informed that the political weekly of Viktor Yushchenko’s bloc “Nasha Ukraina” was distributed free of charge in the passage of one of Kharkov subway stations. At 16:45 the officers of the station militia came to distributors G. Igumnov and E. Poltavets, took them to the militia room and, in presence of witnesses, compiled the protocol on the confiscation of 410 copies of the edition “Bez tsenzury”.

 The editorial board stated that this was not the first case of persecuting the distributors of the newspaper in the Kharkov oblast.

The Institute of mass information, “Barometr svobody slova”, June 2003

 

***

On 17 June the distributors of the newspaper of the bloc “Nasha Ukraina” in Kharkov came across an unpleasant incident. The workers of the local militia confiscated from them 410 copies of the edition “Bez tsenzury”. The political weekly was distributed free of charge in the passage of one of Kharkov subway stations. About 5 p.m. militiamen came to distributors Igumnov and Poltavets and ordered them to walk to the station militia room. Here the militiamen compiled the protocol on the confiscation of 410 copies of the edition. The workers of the newspaper explained to our correspondent that the law-enforcers adduced the formal reason that the distributors allegedly impeded the movement of subway passengers. Yet, answering the official request of the assistants of MP Volodymir Filenko about the legal grounds of these actions, senior sergeant Sapelnik informed that he fulfilled the order of captain Sukhoruk, the head of the department of subway guard. The members of the editorial board of the weekly “Bez tsenzury” stated that this was not the first case of persecuting the distributors of the newspaper in the Kharkov oblast.

 («Ukraina moloda», No. 109, 19 June 2003)

Court processes for protecting the freedom of speech and the press

08.04.2004

Yalta court obliged the officials to render the requested information to journalists

   

On 13 June 2003 the town court of Yalta considered the civil case on the complaint of Ragim Gumbatov, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper “Alubika”, against the illegal actions of local officials. Gumbatov appealed against the refusal of the officials of the Alupka town council, in particular Alupka mayor Valeriy Andyk, to render information to journalists.

In December 2002 the Yalta court took the similar decision, but defendant V. Andyk appealed this decision in the second court instance, and the Appeal court of the Crimea directed the case to the court of first instance for another consideration.

The decision the Yalta town court obliged Alupka mayor Valeriy Andyk to render the needed information to journalist Ragim Gumbatov. The court decision will come into effect in a month. The editor was represented in court by Arsen Osmanov, a lawyer of the Committee on the monitoring of the freedom of speech in the Crimea.

The Committee on the monitoring of the freedom of speech in the Crimea, [email protected]

Court processes for protecting the freedom of speech and the press

08.04.2004

Journalist of the newspaper “Ekspress” Bogdan Kufrik won the trial against Lviv mayor Lubomir Buniak

   

24 June 2003. The Appeal court of the Lviv oblast took the decision that the actions of Lviv mayor Lubomir Buniak, who drove local journalist Bogdan Kufrik from mayor’s press conference, were illegal. Thus, the court cancelled the decision of the Galitskiy district court of Lviv, which rejected the complaint of B. Kufrik in March 2003. Yet, the claim was satisfied by the Appeal court only partly – the journalist will not get the demanded compensation of the moral damage equal to 5000 hryvnas. Soon after the incident, which happened on 7 August 2002 at the briefing, two more most popular Lviv newspapers, “Postup” and “Vysokiy zamok”, supported “Ekspress” and B. Kufrik. These newspapers published the joint appeal, in which they accused L. Buniak of the violation of the Ukrainian laws on the press and information, as well as the law “On state service”, which regulate the access of journalists to information. The newspapers appealed to the mayor to apologize publicly to the journalists and inhabitants of Lviv.

The Institute of mass information, “Barometr svobody slova”, June 2003

Conflicts connected with licensing of electronic mass media

08.04.2004

TV company “UTAR” turned to the European court on human rights

   

The complaint was sent to Strasbourg on 26 April 2003. The reason of sending this complaint was the violation of Article 10 “The freedom of expression of the opinions” and Article 6 “The right for just court consideration” of the European Convention of human rights. On 17 April 2002 the National council in charge of TV and radio broadcasting issued the decision, in which it did not acknowledge “UTAR” to be the winner of the competition for the right to use the 37th channel in Kyiv.

 («Ukrainske slovo», No. 24, 12-18 June 2003)

Court processes against journalists and mass media. civil cases

08.04.2004

The ambassador of Canada is surprised by the practice of closing the newspapers by canceling their registration

   

On 16-18 June Canadian ambassador Andrew Robinson visited the Zakarpatska oblast. During his meeting with journalists A. Robinson expressed his surprise at the practice existing in the region, when the newspapers are closed by means of canceling their registration by court decisions (he meant the case with “Visti tyzhnia” and the claim of the press directorate of the oblast administration on the cancellation of registration of the newspaper “RIO”).

The diplomat never heard about similar cases in any other regions of Ukraine. “In Canada such things are impossible even in theory, since there newspapers must not be registered by state organs”, the ambassador remarked. “The state must not have any influence in such cases, if a crime was not committed”, he added. A. Robinson promised to raise this question at his meeting with the head of the oblast state administration.

Yaroslav Frindak, the Zakarpatska oblast branch of the Voters’ Committee of Ukraine, Uzhgorod

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

08.04.2004

Statistics of claims against mass media in the Lugansk oblast

   

Some statistics. In 2002 there were 269 claims on the protection of honor, dignity and business reputation in the courts of the Lugansk oblast, 203 of them were handed in 2002. During that year 188 cases were considered, among them 31 were rejected, 56 were closed (i.e. the demands were not satisfied); the decisions were issued on 92 claims, 69 of them were satisfied. The greatest number of such cases was considered in the Leninskiy and Zhovtnevy courts of Lugansk and in the Stakhanov town court.

The total sum of moral and material compensations demanded in the claims was 2,089,077 hryvnas, and 42,514 hryvnas must be paid according to the court decisions.

49 claims on the protection of honor, dignity and business reputation were brought against mass media, 31 of them were handed in 2002. 35 cases were considered during the year, 12 were rejected, 6 were closed; the decisions were issued on 17 claims, 14 were satisfied. Leninskiy district court of Lugansk considered 25 cases, Brianka town court – 7 cases, Krasnodon town court – 7 cases, Zhovtnevy district court of Lugansk – 6 cases, Stakhanov town court – 2 cases, Lutuginskiy district court – 1 case and Popasninaskiy district court – 1 case.

The total demanded recompensing sum was 1, 627,704 UAH the court obliged the defendants to pay 4039 UAH. Thus, the total sum that must be paid according to the decisions of Leninskiy district court of Lugansk equals to 1717 hryvnas out of the total demanded sum of 530500 hryvnas; the corresponding numbers for other courts are: Brianka town court --- 471 out of 7000, Krasnodon town court – 630 out of 80000, Lutuginskiy district court – 1017 out of 10000, Stakhanov town court – 204 out of 204.

So, the oblast mass media permanently stay in the field of social tension generated by the conflict of interests, more often the interests of bureaucrats and citizens, who try to defend their legal rights and interests through publications on the newspapers. Yet, sometimes the citizens together with the newspapers, become the victims of the illegal court repressions.

The above statement may be confirmed by the scandalous case Medianik vs. Lugansk newspaper “Rakurs plus”, when Medianik, a businessman and a deputy of the town council, demanded to recompense the moral damage (100 thousand hryvnas) inflicted to him by the publication in the newspaper of the voters’ critical opinions about his work (!). And the court ruined the newspaper even before the consideration of the case – it issued the decision about the arrest of all future issues of the newspaper!

Nikolay Kozyrev, the Chairman of the board of the Public committee for protecting the constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens, Lugansk

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

08.04.2004

Claim of the Ministry of Transport of Ukraine against the newspaper “Vechernie visti”

   

20 May 2003. The Pecherskiy district court of Kyiv rejected the claim of the Ministry of Transport of Ukraine against the newspaper “Vechernie visti” and Sergiy Sukhobok, the author of the article “For what the Ministry of Transport of Ukraine needs its own army?”, which was reprinted by “Vechernie visti” from the Internet-edition “Obkom”. The plaintiff demanded to recompense the moral damage equivalent to 5 million hryvnas.

(«Ukrainske slovo», No. 24, 12-18 June 2003)

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

08.04.2004

Claims of Viktor Medvedchuk against Sergiy Ratushniak and the newspaper “Silski visti”

   

Recently Viktor Medvedchuk brought a suit against MP Sergiy Ratushniak, a former Uzhgorod mayor. S. Ratushniak gave an interview to the Uzhgorod newspaper “RIO”, in which he called the sitting of the pro-presidential deputies’ majority on 21 January 2000 “a velvety-criminal anti-state plot headed by Medvedchuk” and expressed the opinion that “Medvedchuk was guilty of the death of Ukrainian genius Stus, and Medvedchuk’s father – of sending more than 1600 Ukrainians for servitude to Germany”. For these words Medvedchuk handed a claim against Ratushniak. The defendant knew nothing about the claim and the planned consideration of it by court. The process was held in the favorite Medvedchuk’s court – the Pecherskiy district court of Kyiv, although the ex-mayor of Uzhgorod is not a Kyiv dweller, and the editorial board of the newspaper “RIO” is situated in the Zakarpatska oblast. In the absence of Sergiy Ratushniak judge Stryzhevska satisfied the demands of the head of President’s administration. So, now Ratushniak can only appeal against the actions of the court…

Medvedchuk handed a claim against out newspaper too. The leader of the SDPU (u) disliked his characterization given by Yulia Timoshenko in one of interviews. V. Medvedchuk decided to have legal proceedings not only with Ms. Timoshenko, but also with “Silski visti” and Vasyl Gruzny, the author of the material.

 («Silski visti», No. 58, 22 May 2003)

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

08.04.2004

Brovary town court (the Kyiv oblast) partly satisfied the claim of the Brovary town council against the newspaper “Brovarskiy kuryer”

   

25 June 2003. Today the Brovary town court of the Kyiv oblast partly satisfied the claim of the Brovary town council against the newspaper “Brovarskiy kuryer” and obliged the editorial board to refute the information published in the weekly “Brovarskiy kuryer” No. 9 of 11 October 2002 and No. 10 of 25 October 2002.

We want to remind that Brovary mayor Viktor Antonenko demanded from the editorial board to refute the untrue information and to pay him the compensation of moral damage equal to 40 thousand hryvnas. The publications in the newspaper were devoted to the celebration of the Day of the town. The newspaper published the interview of the head of the budget committee of the town council, who said that 100 thousand hryvnas had to be allotted for the celebration. The budget committee protested against such expenses, but the deputies of the town council approved the program. The opinion was expressed in the editorial comment that it should be more reasonable to allot such great amount of money not for the celebration, but for the salaries of the workers of communal sphere.

The Institute of mass information, “Barometr svobody slova”, June 2003

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

08.04.2004

Okhtyrka town court (the Sumy oblast) decided to satisfy the claim of Mirgorod mayor Oleksandr Pautov against Viktor Kozoriz, the editor of the opposition newspaper “Mirgorodska Pravda”

   

23 June 2003. Okhtyrka town court (the Sumy oblast) issued the decision to satisfy the claim of Mirgorod mayor Oleksandr Pautov against Viktor Kozoriz, the editor of the opposition newspaper “Mirgorodska Pravda”. In the verdict the court decreased the compensation sum from 50 thousand hryvnas (demanded by the mayor) to 600 hryvnas from the editorial board and 1500 hryvnas from Kozoriz. At the same time the court decided to cancel the seizure of Kozoriz’s flat that had been imposed in March “with the aim to secure the claim”. The newspaper is also obliged to publish the refutation. Viktor Kozoriz, who, because of his conflict with the mayor, had, in fact, to move in Kharkov, intends to appeal against the court decision.

The mayor was offended by the publication in the December issue of the newspaper, in which Kozoriz called Pautov “an absolutely untalented manager”, who “has rather vague notion of the economic policy and the principles of managing a modern town”. The claimant believes that these words, as well as the phrase: “…he does not understand at all, by whom and for what he was elected, and to whom he must serve”, inflicted the damage to his honor, dignity and business reputation equivalent to 50 thousand hryvnas.

The Institute of mass information, “Barometr svobody slova”, June 2003

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

08.04.2004

Nikolayev branch of “Privatbank” handed a claim against the newspaper “Ridne Pribuzhzhia”

   

19 June 2003. The Nikolayev branch of “Privatbank” handed a claim against the newspaper “Ridne Pribuzhzhia” published by the Nikolayev oblast state administration and the Nikolayev oblast council. “Privatbank” demands 50 thousand hryvnas of compensation for the publication of untrue (in the opinion of the claimant) information disgracing the reputation of the bank. On 1 February 2003 the newspaper published the information about the meeting of the leaders of oblast trade unions with governor Oleksiy Garkusha. “Privatbank” was mentioned in the article twice: as the new owner of the plant “Kristal”, with the appearance of which the reduction of the staff was expected at the plant, and as the bank, which obtruded the system of plastic cards for paying salaries to the personnel of the Zhovtnevy central district hospital of the Nikolayev. The article read that the services of the bank would cost 130 thousand hryvnas to the hospital. The administration of  “Privatbank” insists that the bank has no relation with the plant “Kristal”, and that the production and maintenance of the plastic cards are gratis for the hospital.

Tetiana Odintsova, the editor-in-chief of “Ridne Pribuzhzhia”, communicated to the IMI that the information spread by the newspaper was given by the trade union leaders of the plant “Kristal” and the Zhovtnevy hospital. On 20 June these leaders will be summoned to court as witnesses. The Nikolayev branch of “Privatbank” handed the claim to court on 6 March 2003. Two considerations of the case have been already conducted.

The Institute of mass information, “Barometr svobody slova”, June 2003

0pinions

08.04.2004

What is the proportion of lie in the free press?

   

Recently MP V. Potapov took part in a live broadcast. S. Gabrielov, a deputy of the Kupiansk town council and the editor of our newspaper, put a question to him about the freedom of speech, and V. Potapov answered: “The editor of “Frant” has so much freedom that he writes everything he can. His newspaper contains 50% of lie”. Thank you, respected Mr. Potapov, for the wonderful publicity. “The Washington Post”, one of the most respected newspaper in the USA, publishes, according to the data of American experts, 25-30% of authentic information. So, we are much better.

We remember well the significant date for our collective – 1 February 2001, when “Frant” published its first critical article. This article presented our own opinion about the local live TV broadcast with the participation of town top officials.

 («Frant», Kupiansk-Uzlovoy, the Kharkov oblast, No. 20, 8 May 2003)

0pinions

08.04.2004

From the open letter of the Association of the party press to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe

   

Recently the international image of Ukraine was undermined for the umpteenth time. Again, because of the unknown reasons, we occupied one of the last places by the level of the freedom of the press. Even after our government adopted the Law on the unhindered realization of the citizens’ right for the freedom of speech and legally defined the term “censorship”, some anonymous experts from “Freedom House” fixed “the further deterioration of the situation with the freedom of mass media in Ukraine”. And some time later “Amnesty International” breathed on the reputation of our country declaring about “the violations of citizens’ right for free access to information” that allegedly existed in our country.

We reckon that the monitoring and the expert activities in the sphere of mass media on the territory of Ukraine must be realized not only by international organizations or some small groups of Ukrainian journalists, but by editorial collectives of almost 400 party periodicals, which reflect the entire spectrum of political opinions, but are united in their patriotic feelings. The party journalists are permanently working in the epicenter of the political life. Their generalized observations and conclusions would be able not only to guarantee the transparency and democracy of the results, but also (and that is the most important task) to promote the unbiased estimation and the ways of the development of democracy in Ukraine.

(«Narodna spravedlivist», No. 22, June 2003)

0pinions

08.04.2004

Ivan Chizh, the head of the State committee of information: The increase of the activity of journalists in the protection of their rights and freedoms is caused not only by a number of tragic events, but also by the necessity of changing the attitude to journalism as such

   

The increase of the activity of journalists in the protection of their rights and freedoms is caused not only by a number of tragic events, but also by the necessity of changing the attitude to journalism as such. The Ukrainian journalism extremely needs the positive image, because today, one must recognize, this image is rather negative. The Ukrainian journalistic corporation splits into different, sometimes openly antagonistic, camps.

The intensive attention to the freedom of speech in Ukraine on the side of international organizations, and not only journalistic ones, is praiseworthy. Yet, whether these observers did something really useful for the Ukrainian journalists? For some reasons, our colleagues from abroad persistently do not notice the positive moments, although, if to think logically, they must exist. And, fortunately, these positive moments do exist! The laws are adopted on the protection of the professional rights of journalists and of their life. Only journalists, along with law-enforcers, have the right to carry weapons. According to the operating laws, a state official may not refuse the access to information, which is not related to state secrets, to a worker of mass media. Besides, the pluralism of opinions exists in Ukraine. Maybe, this pluralism is even too developed, because if it had a merely declarative character, then we would not debate now on the ways of protecting the informational space of Ukraine from the appreciable foreign influence. And the situation in this sphere is extremely dangerous: the almost complete commercialization of the informational space resulted in the rapid development of the industry of popular, but very far from the interests of Ukraine and the Ukrainian nation, mass media.

 («Narodna spravedlivist», No. 22, June 2003)

Non-governmental organizations that deal with the freedom of expression

08.04.2004

The Congress of businessmen of the Ivano-Frankivsk oblast started to realize the project “Human rights and the freedom of the press”

   

The project “Human rights and the freedom of the press” began to work in the Ivano-Frankivsk oblast. The project is supported by the National Endowment for democracy at the USA Embassy in Ukraine. The main tasks of the project are to disclose the violations in this sphere and to inform the public about human rights and the freedom of the press. The project is realized by the Congress of businessmen of the Ivano-Frankivsk oblast with the assistance of the newspaper “Aktsenty”, which gave the entire page for this topic.

The realization of the project was discussed at the round table “The place and role of mass media in legal protection and legal education of population”. Head of the project Volodymir Totaru, the chairman of the Congress, informed that the creation of correspondent’s stations was planned in Kosivskiy, Nadvirnianskiy and Verkhovinskiy districts, that the competition was announced for the best article and journalist’s investigation in this sphere. Three groups of volunteers will be also formed, who will spread the materials on the international standards of human rights and the freedom of the press and will familiarize with the situation in various districts.

(«Galychyna», No. 83-84, 5 June 2003)

Freedom of Expression in Ukraine, 2003, №10

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