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Kost Bondarenko: Why the freedom of speech is permanently violated in Ukraine?


Kost Bondarenko, a political scientist, candidate of historical sciences, Kyiv

Why the words “freedom of speech” is an oxymoron in Ukraine? Why our journalists cannot fulfill the main task of social democracy: liberation of labor from the yoke of capital?

These numerous why’s make me to think that there is no freedom inside us. And there is no need for freedom. The freedom as the realized necessity. There is no fear of the Word (which is the God, according to the Gospel), and there is no respect for the People of the Word. Our society does not understand that journalists are the ministers of the Religion of the Word. And the journalists also do not realize their function.

It is most easy to reduce everything to the moral-ethical norms, to put several rhetorical questions and to lead the readers into the casuistic labyrinth. Yet, I will try to discourse on more material problems.

Several years ago, when the journalists of Lviv “Express” conducted the action for the protection of the freedom of speech, they had a reliable and efficient ally – Aleksandr Zinchenko. In fact, the man from the pro-power camp defended the newspaper against the arbitrary actions of the power. Yet, the situation is different now.

The society is polarized now, and the newspaper “Lvivska gazeta”, which reflects the opinions of the opposition, can hope only for the support by the representatives of opposition. I should be happy to hear some kindly words about this newspaper from the MPs from the Lviv oblast, for example, the members of the SDPU (u). No, I do not want them to denounce Medvedchuk-junior, but they may express their attitude to the freedom of speech, to support the journalists morally. That would be a politically correct and humane act.

I also want to listen to the position of representatives of the pro-presidential political parties, and I will have respect to any position. If a representative of the Party of Regions would say: “They deserved that! “Lvivska gazeta” is a mob of fools, untalented people and tax dodgers!”, I would esteem him for straightforwardness and boldness. Yet, I do not see any people, who have their own opinion. It seems that the conflict between the newspaper and the State Tax administration does not exist at all. However, let us recollect how many parties promised in their election programs to protect the freedom of speech!

I like the standpoint of Viktor Medvedchuk, who actively asserts his views, although his views contradict to mine.

I want to clear up the attitude of the official power to this conflict, since I believe that the power must control any conflicts between the tax administration and the press. How many commissions were created for the investigation of the situation? What was done for informing the President and the Cabinet of Ministers about this case?

I also want to know what was the reaction of representatives of “Lviv diaspora” in Kyiv to the events around “Lvivska gazeta”? Where are their protests? Where are their concrete actions? I will not mention the concrete names, but I want to say that my personal appeals to several Lviv representatives were futile. My interlocutors nodded and turned to other topics.

I am guilty too, because I could not persuade some political figures of the top level to support the newspaper. By the way, one of the arguments adduced by me during the talks with these politicians was the following: on 3 December 2002, at the Parliamentary hearings on the questions of the freedom of speech, vice-Prime-Minister Dmytro Tabachnik proposed to prohibit (for the term of one year) the checks of mass media by fiscal organs.

Did somebody cancel this initiative? Does the mechanism exist for the control over the fulfillment of the initiatives of the government? Maybe, tax administration has the right to ignore the propositions of the government? Or D. Tabachnik was joking? Well, somebody must be responsible: either the vice-Prime-Minister for his words, or Lviv tax administration for their actions.

However, the politicians ignored my arguments too...

The freedom of speech is not only the right to publish one’s opinions or the right to swear at the President and power. The freedom of speech is also the right, even the duty, to have own position. The position, which concerns not only the conflict between the tax administration and the newspaper, but the position concerning the life as a whole. The situation in our society confirms that the freedom of speech is absent in Ukraine.

Let us stop to look for a censor! The censor stays inside us, and we must destroy this internal censor. Then, and only then, we would have the right to respect ourselves. It is very simple to overcome the fear and to say: “I agree” or “I do not agree”.

If we want to become real Ukrainians, we must do that. We must get rid of our fear, envy, irresponsibility, hypertrophied egotism, peacockery and greediness. We must understand that living in the country called Ukraine is not enough for being real Ukrainians. We must learn to have our own position and to uphold this position, independently of political views, race or religion.

The situation around “Lvivska gazeta” became an evidence of absolute passivity of our people.

(“Lvivska gazeta”, 22 September 2003)

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