Odessa journalists speak of encroachments on freedom of speech in the region
One of the signatories to the statement was summoned for questioning by the police after reporting damage to billboards like the following
Editors of Odessa media outlets have issued a joint statement warning that freedom of speech is under threat in the area. The statement was signed by Serhiy Bratchuk from TV Nova Odessa; Ivan Melnyk from the newspaper Chornomorski Novyny; Ihor Stolyarov from the Internet publication “Vzglyad iz Odessy”; and Olha Kolohreva from the newspaper “Yug” [South].
The statement was circulated among foreign diplomats, Kyiv journalists and others taking part in festive events in Odessa marking the anniversary of Estonian independence.
“Court cases; summons to the investigators; threats; storming of premises; pressure on relatives – these are aspects of the reality staff of media outlets not under the control of the authorities and independent journalists in the Odessa region are encountering more and more often”.
They assert that in December 2011, the only Ukrainian language regional newspaper Chornomorski Novyny and the newspaper “Yug” received letters from the municipal publishing company of the regional council “Chernomorye” threatening to evict the editorial boards from premises they legally occupy. They say that this was confirmed by a court order which came into force back in March 2008.
They say that in February conditions have been made impossible for the editorial offices working in the “Chernomorye” building with problems to heating, water supply and toilets.
A court case is underway at present in the Regional Economic Court between Chernomorye and the above-mentioned media outlets, with one another, in which the regional council is a third party. The authors of the statement stress the negative effect this suit is having on the atmosphere within the said media outlets.
The statement mentions also the summons of Ihor Stolyarov from the Internet publication “Vzglyad iz Odessy” for conscientiously fulfilling his journalist duties by informing readers about the daubing with paint etc of the billboards with President Yanukovych’s New Year greetings.
They also assert that in parts of the Odessa region – the Kominternsky, Rozdilnyansky, Ovidiopolsky and other districts - a full assault on freedom of speech is underway with publications either removed altogether with others, serving the authorities, created in their place, or with the editors changed.
In February there have been reports of pressure on journalists, sometimes indirectly through their relatives, in the Ananyivsky and Kotovsky districts. They are also prevented from attending meetings of the bodies of local self-government , not provided with information etc.
The authors conclude that a “total assault on freedom of speech” is underway in the region with fear being fostered in society. They ask people to pay heed to the situation and report it the wider international community. They assert that the Ukrainian authorities who assure the world of their respect for freedom of speech are in fact using all means to try to take the media under their control.