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September 25, 2012

Annual report of the situation of the freedom of speech and harassment of journalists in Ukraine

With the approaching elections in Ukraine we can observe a sharp increase in the number of violations of journalists' rights and lawsuits against the media and individual journalists.

This is clearly seen in every monthly barometer that is conducted by the Institute of media. 

The recordings forthe first three months of 2012 shows the following: in January6 cases of obstruction of professional dutiesof journalists were recorded. In February it was 15 and inApril 16.

In August,it increased to 39 cases. Common examples of obstruction include impeding the professional duties and censorship.

More frequent lawsuits against journalists and the media are the final factor toprevent freedom of speech before the elections.

Ukrainehas again reverted to confrontations between press and the authorities and very often the journalists’ rights are violated by the police and officials. These conclusions are made by Institute of Mass Information after monitoring the cases of violations of journalists’ rights, written in the annual report Timeline of Freedom of Speech .The sharp deterioration of the situation has been stated by experts for the last two years.

There are many cases of restricting journalists’ access to the authorities, including the ministers, and refusals in accreditation. There are also cases of pressure on journalists with the aim to change their editing policy.

It is significant that journalists are becoming more afraid to inform about political and economic pressure because of fear of losing their job. Those, who openly told about the pressure and joined the movement Stop Censorship!, can now only work either in the Internet Media or TVi or Channel 5.

The consequence of such deterioration of the freedom of speech is a sharp decrease of Media content quality. According to experts of Telecritica, TV news don’t show protests, actions of Opposition, increase in prices and worsening of social standards.  

According to survey of the Academy of Ukrainian Press, the majority of Ukrainian leading Media avoids speaking about political and social issues and is oriented towards lighter topics.

Anotherimportant factis that the Supreme council (Verkhovna Rada) of Ukraine recently adopted a Bill, which establishes criminal liability for defamation. Over 244 MPs voted for this document. Libel will be fined from 500 to 5000 times the minimumtaxable income(from 8.5 thousand to 85 thousand UAH), correctional labor or arrest from 3 to 8 months.

 
The Bill wasnot even discussed in the Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information!!!

 
The Bill number 11 013 «On Amendments to the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine (on greater responsibility for attacks on the honor and dignity)» registered MP Vitaly Zhuravsky (Party of Regions) on July 19. A week before this article on libel returned to the Russian Criminal Code.

Ukrainianjournalists' organizations have already reacted sharply against the adoption of this document.

Independent Media Trade Unionof Ukraine believes that the Parliament has taken another step towards the destruction of freedom of speech, and thus democracy in Ukraine. So the union protested against the first reading of a Bill that allows locking up journalists or any citizen for public slander and false information.

Such a provisionin the legislation does not meet international standards and violates the 10th article of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which declares the right to freedom of expression and thought.

Many Ukrainian journalists demand to set aside this «defamation Bill». That is why they organized the «round tables», created a special group at Facebook etc. Ukrainian media are sure: if this Bill is adopted to Law it will be a big step into the past for our country. 




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