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Ukraine is preparing a law on full control over the media, as the last vestiges of press freedom disappear in Kiev

Rt.com By Olga Sukharevskaya, ex-Ukrainian diplomat, 8 Oct 22,

A bill approved by the Verkhovna Rada will finally finish off freedom of speech in Ukraine.

While fierce battles continue to rage between the Ukrainian and Russian armies in Donbass, Kherson Region, and Zaporozhye, the Kiev regime is busy eradicating the last vestiges of freedom of speech in the country.

On August 30, Ukraine’s rubber-stamp parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, passed a bill on the media at the first reading. Despite the numerous changes that the 300-page document has undergone since President Vladimir Zelensky’s team developed and submitted it a few years ago, its essence remains unchanged. If it becomes law, the authorities’ power over virtually all outlets will be essentially limitless.

The main danger this bill presents is that it grants government agencies the authority to block internet resources without any court proceedings, and revoke licenses from broadcast and print media solely on the basis of complaints. This huge power would be vested in the National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting.

No room in the EU

Ukrainian journalists have been criticizing this bill since the first version appeared in 2018, asserting that it abolishes both freedom of speech and freedom of the press. OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Desir called that version of the law “a blatant violation of freedom of speech,” stating that its adoption “could jeopardize pluralism in the media market, impose additional costs on the media, and negatively affect the reflection of a diversity of ideas and opinions.”

Criticism of the bill from both the OSCE and Ukrainian journalists had an effect. In 2020, it was sent for revision, but the changes only include some clarifications concerning gender equality and coverage of sexual orientations.

At the same time, it still contains a ban on publishing any messages contradicting the official government line on military issues. It is likewise forbidden to cover speeches made by officials of the ‘aggressor country’ [meaning Russia] or cast former USSR party functionaries in a positive light. For example, including Ukraine’s own Leonid Brezhnev. 

The law would also hold foreign media responsible for any of its audiovisual content available in Ukraine. Moreover, social networks, including foreign ones, will be obliged to remove any material the National Council deems undesirable. The deadlines for removing ‘incorrect’ content or replacing it with ‘correct’ material have also been tightened. Among the ‘offenses’ that can get a media outlet banned is distributing programs in which any participant is on the ‘list of persons who pose a threat to the national media space of Ukraine.’ This is compiled by the National Council itself and does not require anyone’s consent.

Otherwise, the essence and spirit of the bill is preserved, including severe censorship of “objectionable” media. The American Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) didn’t call on the Verkhovna Rada to reject Bill No. 2693-D ‘On Media’ for nothing.

Maya Sever, president of the European Federation of Journalists, has bluntly stated that it means compulsory media regulation “fully controlled by the government worthy of the worst authoritarian regimes.” She is convinced that “a state that would apply such provisions simply has no place in the European Union.

From Gongadze to Shariy

Kiev’s war on journalists did not begin today. In 2000, there was the abduction and death of Georgiy Gongadze, the creator of the ‘Ukrainian Truth’ website, who harshly criticized corruption in the country’s highest echelons of power. A number of high-ranking officials were accused of being involved in the murder of the journalist, who then-President Leonid Kuchma viewed as objectionable, but the investigation revealed the involvement of only four perpetrators. One of these was the head of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs’ main Criminal Investigation Department, General Pukach, who allegedly gave the order to liquidate Gongadze.

Nevertheless, there are many grey areas in the case. It was highly politicized and used as one of the pretenses for demanding a change of power during the days of the Orange Revolution.

Anatoly Shariy, who was engaged in high-profile investigative journalism for a number of Ukrainian publications from 2008 to 2011, almost shared Gongadze’s fate……………………………..

It is noteworthy that Shariy’s name has also been brought up in current discussions of the scandalous media bill. In justifying her support for the legislation, the head of the Board of the National Association of Ukrainian Media, Tatiana Kotyuzhinskaya, mentioned the authorities’ desire to limit the influence of Shariy and other bloggers in Ukraine’s infosphere.

It’s possible that, among other things, the reason the blogger’s activities have met with such disapproval was his publication of screenshots from messages sent by the Consul of Ukraine in Hamburg, Vasily Marushchinets, which contained calls for “death to anti-fascists,” comments like “it’s honorable to be a fascist,” and statements in the spirit of “Jews declared war on Germany back in March of 1934.” It was only after this that Nazi views in Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry became widely known to the public.

Threats, sanctions, arrests, attacks, and murders

Although the Ukrainian media has always had to fight the authorities’ attempts to restrict its activities, it was the Western-backed 2014 Euromaidan that triggered systematic persecution of press freedom in general, and individual journalists in particular.

Less than a month after the coup the new government tried to close down one of the two most widely read Ukrainian weeklies specializing in news analysis, ‘2000’, which took a negative view of the political forces that had violently seized power. The newspaper’s editorial offices were ransacked, and many left-wing outlets were shuttered. In particular, these included Borotba, as well as Rabochaya Gazeta, whose editor-in-chief ended up in the dungeons of Ukraine’s secret police, the SBU.

In the same year, Konstantin Dolgov, the editor-in-chief of ‘Glagol’, an online publication based in Kharkov, and Andrey Borodavka, a journalist, were arrested and persecuted by the new authorities. Olga Kievskaya, editor-in-chief of the ‘Anti-Orange’ website, was forced to emigrate due to threats ………………….

The vast majority of these cases were not covered in the Ukrainian media because these people were immediately declared “subversive elements” based on the so-called “moratorium on criticism of the authorities,” which the authorities announced themselves back in March of 2014, long before the start of hostilities in Donbass.

In 2018, Igor Guzhva, the head of the ‘strana.ua’ website, was forced to flee to Austria, where he received political asylum. The authorities’ efforts to prosecute him began after his investigations into Pyotr Poroshenko’s scandalous commercial activities. Later, under Zelensky, Ukraine imposed personal sanctions on Guzhva, and his website was blocked extrajudicially, while he himself, along with one of his journalists, Svetlana Kryukova, were entered into the ‘Register of State Traitors’. According to the head of Ukraine’s Union of Journalists, Sergey Tomilenko, these sanctions are political, and the European Federation of Journalists issued a statement condemning these actions as “a threat to the press, freedom, and media pluralism in the country.”

But not all Ukrainian journalists managed to emigrate, even after surviving prison. In April of 2015, the famous Ukrainian writer-historian and journalist Oles Buzina died at the hands of ‘Patriots of Ukraine’ after receiving threats and attacks due to his views. Despite appeals from the UN, the authorities have hampered the investigation in every possible way, and the murder suspects are still at large, evidence notwithstanding. In July of 2016, another journalist, Pavel Sheremet, was killed by participants in Kiev’s ‘Anti-Terrorist Operation’ (ATO) and supporters of the “purity of the white race.”

“Government critics, journalists, and non-profit organizations have come under increasing pressure from the authorities and far-right groups, which have embarked on the path of infringing freedom of speech and freedom of association under the pretext of countering Russian aggression,” Amnesty International said in a 2017 report.

No room for foreigners

Since the first half of 2014, even calling for a peaceful settlement of the conflict in the east of the country has been considered a crime in Ukraine. In particular, Ruslan Kotsaba, a journalist who refused to be drafted due to the consequences of a stroke, was imprisoned for this reason. In fairness, it should be noted that he was acquitted by an Appeals Court after a year and a half of imprisonment.

A few years before the start of Russia’s military operation, journalists whose material was published in the Russian media were subject to criminal prosecution…………………………………………….

The OSCE is aware, but Ukraine’s authorities don’t care

In 2018, a report was published by OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Desir in which he asserts that he had handed the Ukrainian authorities more than 20 statements and appeals collected from July 6 to November 21, 2018, concerning freedom of speech and the rights of journalists in Ukraine. ………………………………………

No room for freedom of speech in Ukraine

We have specifically chosen the report of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, which was published quite some time ago, to demonstrate that the attitude of the Ukrainian authorities towards freedom of speech and the right of journalists to freely express their own opinions have long-standing roots, and their persecution is systemic. Any similar report covering any period from 2014 to the present would contain no fewer instances of violations of these rights and freedoms. The whole list would require a decent-sized book to document………………………………………………………………………….

The fact that the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine supported the bill ‘On Media’ gives reason to fear that the situation for the country’s journalists will become even worse. Once again, the Zelensky regime has confirmed that it’s not building a democratic, but an authoritarian or even totalitarian state, which has no room for such concepts as freedom of speech and the press.  https://www.rt.com/russia/564217-ukraine-vs-freedom-of-speech/

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October 11, 2022 - Posted by | media, secrets,lies and civil liberties, Ukraine

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