Parliamentary Freedom of Speech Committee takes up the Antenna-Plus case
Members of the Committee on Freedom of Speech are to send an appeal to the Prosecutor General regarding the situation with the Cherkasy TV and Radio Company [TRC) Antenna Plus.
On 18 May 2011 the provider Volya stopped broadcasting the popular Cherkasy independent TV channel Antenna-plus in its analogue package and transferred it to digital. Antenna-Plus sees the removal of its analogue signal as linked with political pressure.
This conflict was the first of a long list of cases of obstruction of freedom of speech which Ihor Lubchenko, Head of the Ukrainian National Union of Journalists cited in an open letter to President Yanukovych who had on World Press Freedom Day yet again asked for specific examples of violations of freedom of speech promising to react to them.
Lubchenko says that the change to digital format effectively deprives tens of thousands of viewers in Cherkasy of the opportunity to receive information and watch an independent broadcaster. This is, he points out, the only independent television channel in the region.
Over many years Antenna Plus had remained free and critical of any regime. It had succeeded in retaining its freedom of speech under Kuchma and Yushchenko.
“After the appointment as Head of the Regional Administration of Serhiy Tulub, a new wave of pressure and repression began. Attempts at seizures of media outlets, threats by those who wield power in the area and from the enforcement structures, pressure on the cable network provider to stop broadcast of the television channel, threats to advisers and press distributors were just some of the methods in the new information policy in the region.
On 1 June, the Parliamentary Committee questioned representatives of Antenna-Plus, the National Broadcasting Council and Volya. The latter claims that the crux of the conflict is “banal and simple”, boiling down to economic relations According to Ihor Lubchenko’s open letter, Volya simply stopped broadcasting Antenna-Plus without warning and had no grounds for this since Antenna-Plus’ licence runs until 2016.
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