Beginning of June marks attempts by authorities to restrict journalist rights
During the first week in June there were a number of apparent attempts by the new Presidential Administration and Cabinet of Ministers, as well as regional representatives of the ruling party, to restrict the rights and freedoms of the media and members of the public generally.
Concern continues at the attempts by the Head of the Security Service [SBU] who is also co-owner of the largest Ukrainian television channel, to influence the process of issuing broadcasting licences to two independent TV channels critical of the government – Channel 5 and TVi.
A response to this pressure was the journalist action “Stop Censorship!” on Journalist Day. It is worth noting that despite the involvement of leading journalists from central TV channels, there was no mention on the news broadcasts of their channels of the action.
2 June 2010
The Cabinet of Ministers tells “Gazeta po-ukrainski” not to send to their weekly meetings press photographer Andriy Shmatov. When the newspaper asked why not, they were told by the person from the CMU office, Halyna, that they had been shown such photographs.
The photo which displeased was one where the Minister of Education, D. Tabachnyk is being helped out of his car by an assistant. The newspaper was told that the CVU was not refusing accreditation, just asking for somebody else. Halyna did eventually issue Andriy Shmatov with accreditation, but warned that the security guards might not let him in.
On that same day our photographer was stopped from photographing the arrival of the ministers at the morning meeting of the Cabinet. They were told that this was an object under special regime where you couldn’t take photos.
The issue of who is to be accredited is one which must be decided by the editorial office, without the authorities giving any instructions.
The editorial board of the journal “Ukrainsky tyzhden” [“Ukrainian week”] states that it is experiencing pressure and its access to readers is being limited.
In an open letter signed by the staff, it explains that the company Ukrainian International Aviation, with no explanation, has terminated its cooperation with the journal. According to the authors, the journal’s publishers had, at their own expense, provided copies for the airline to distribute on local and international flights
They state that they were informed of this the day after the President and his party visited Lviv.
[The letter noted that there had been an issue of the journal with a very unflattering picture of Yanukovych in relation to Russia’s Putin [http://ut.net.ua/arh/0/126/ – translator]
Possible blocking of central channel news broadcasts in Kharkiv. Kharkiv residents using the provider “Volya-Kharkiv” were unable to watch the evening news on central TV channels. According to the website Glavnoye, viewers were unable to see news on 1+1, Channel 5 and STB.
These all had features on the events in Kharkiv’s Gorky Park when the authorities, assisted by the police, used force and detentions against peaceful protesters. The broadcast on STB can be seen here: http://telekritika.ua/daidzhest/2010-06-03/53400 More information about the actions of the authorities can be found at http://kyivpost.com/news/opinion/op_ed/detail/68933/
and in an appeal to the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissar here: http://khpg.org.ua/en/index.php?id=1275908780
There were also problems on Thursday, 3 June where a press conference by experts discussing the consequences of the tree felling via the same provider was broadcast without sound.
On both 2 and 3 June, as soon as the information programmes had finished, the TV channels began working normally.
Channel 5 issued an open letter to the President in which it asserted that the Head of Ukraine’s Security Service [SBU] Valery Khoroshkovsky was trying to destroy the Channel. They stated that Mr Khoroshkovsky, also a member of the High Council of Justice and closely linked with the Inter Media Group was attempting to destroy the channel by getting the court to cancel the results of the tender for frequencies from 27 January 2010, with the subsequent loss of licence.
Mr Khoroshkovsky rejected the accusations, and asked for proof. He stated also that the dispute was in the hands of the court. His letters states that “the fight against corruption is one of the tasks of the SBU which is confirmed by high-profile criminal cases investigated recently, and such unfounded statements are an obstruction to carrying out our official duty”.
On 8 June the court allowed in full the claim brought by channels of the Inter Media Group and stripped Channel 5 and TVi of the frequencies it won in the National Broadcasting Council tender on 27 January. Since these are two of the three independent TV channels left, concern was expressed by a number of people. Suggestions have also been voiced that Mr Khoroshkovsky’s recent appointment by the President to the High Council of Justice could give him a lever of influence over judges. More details can be found here: khpg.org/index.php?id=1276001065
Pressure from within a media outlet
The (recently appointed) Director General of the National Television Company of Ukraine [NTCU] Yehor Benkendorf placed a ban on members of staff providing the media with information about NTCU without agreeing this with the Press Service.
Instruction No. 23 states that in order to provide accurate information about NTCU activities, “the heads of all sections, presenters and employees are informed that all information which concerns any NTCU activities should be provided to the media solely after being agreed with the Head of the Department for Public and Media Relations”.
If this instruction is not complied with, staff are warned that the disciplinary measures in Article 147 of the Code of Labour Laws may be applied. These include reprimands and dismissal.
More information here: http://khpg.org/index.php?id=1275521020
Attacks and arrests
During one of the confrontations mentioned above in Kharkiv’s Gorky Park between defenders of the Park and unidentified individuals in black (cf. the references above), an UNIAN journalist, Andriy Mariyenko was injured and the equipment of two correspondents from other agencies damaged.
In Kyiv at the metro station “Voksalna” police detained Maxim Abramovsky, member of the Independent Media Trade Union from Donetsk. The information was confirmed by a colleague, Tymofiy Zlatkin, who was with Mr Abramovsky at the time and says that the police were waiting for them. “We asked them what the grounds were for detaining him and they say that they are carrying out an “Anti-terror” operation. They provided no identification when asked”. He also said that his colleague had managed to phone him and say that he was being beaten, but since then there has been no more communication.
The Head of the Kyiv MIA [Ministry of Internal Affairs] Centre for Public Relations in Kyiv, Volodymyr Polishchuk, informed Telekritika that the grounds for his detention had been his gas pistol. “He is presently being questioned in a police interrogation room. I have already had calls from journalists talking about him being tortured. I refute this information. A gas pistol was found on him and they are now ascertaining whether he had the relevant permit. There is a suspicion that the pistol was reworked from a gas to a shock pistol. They will find out and release him”.
A specialist from the same department, Oleksandr Radkevych said that the gas pistol for which he had a permit had been reworked by him or for him. He said that they would release Mr Abramovsky pending the results of the expert assessment. He claimed that the police constantly carry out such raids, and that at 10.50 when Abramovsky entered the metro, a police officer had gone up and shown identification, and that they had gone into the interrogation room with two witnesses. He denied that any special devices had been used against him. khpg.org/index.php?id=1275479948
At the port in Odessa a filming crew from the information agencies “Mist-Odessa” was unlawfully detained by members of the “N” company while they were carrying out their duties. They were expecting a raider seizure of a business. The “N” employees took equipment away from the journalists by force and locked two journalists, Oleksiy Synyl and Volodymyr Kryzhanivsky in unidentified premises. The information agency reported that the police were not being allowed in, however latter the Editor of Mist-Odessa told the Institute for Mass Information that the police had managed to free the men and were now investigating.
The Kyiv Horshenin Institute and Mist-Odessa issued an appeal to the President, Speaker of Parliament and others saying that the private company had flagrantly violated the Constitution and laws of Ukraine.
From a report by the Institute for Mass Information at http://imi.org.ua/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=178915&Itemid=1
Adapted and supplemented by our material.