World Association of News Publishers


Protest Campaign - Ukraine, 22 September 2012

Protest Campaign - Ukraine, 22 September 2012

Article ID:

15607

WAN-IFRA has sent an open letter to the president of Ukraine to express concern at recent setbacks for media freedoms in the country.

His Excellency Viktor Yanukovych
President of Ukraine
Kiev, Ukraine

21 September 2012

 

Your Excellency,

We would like to thank you once again for meeting with our WAN-IFRA delegation during the 64th World Newspaper Congress and 19th World Editors Forum in Kiev, Ukraine. We were delighted to hear from you that your government has set the goal of building a modern media system in Ukraine and we gladly accept your open invitation to work with WAN-IFRA and our local partners in working towards a strong, sustainable and independent press. In that regard, we are writing to you with two recent concerns that limit press freedoms, which have come to our attention in recent days.

We were disappointed to learn that on 18 September 2012 the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament, voted to amend the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code, to reintroduce criminal libel with possible jail terms of up to five years. Ukraine lead the way in the region by repealing these laws eleven years ago, and the reintroduction of such laws could stifle the development of a free and prosperous society, by promoting self censorship amongst those critical of government or authority.We respectfully remind you of our international press freedom mission report, handed to you personally during our lunch, which called for the Ukraine authorities to “allow media professionals to report openly on corruption” and to ensure the government fosters an environment where a free press can flourish by being independent of governmental, political or economic control.

We also remind you of your address during the opening ceremony of the World Newspaper Congress on 3 September when you said “All political parties in our country agree that the way forward is a completely open and democratic society, and freedom of speech and independent media play a critical role today and in the future”. We believe this proposed bill does not support an open and democratic society and we urge you to dismiss this bill at its second reading and drop the proposed amendments to the criminal codes that see the reintroduction of criminal libel.

Our second concern relates to the ongoing issues regarding private broadcaster, TVi. According to reports, on 11 September TVi received a letter from a state authority, informing it that the company’s bank accounts would be frozen due to an allegedly unpaid debt of about US$2,000 owed to a supplier. TVi’s accounts were duly frozen on 12 September, the same day on which a tax court ruling was reportedly delivered to TVi, giving the station 10 days to pay the equivalent of nearly US$500,000.

The freezing of the bank accounts and issuance of a tax demand follow a decision by the country’s leading cable television provider, Volia, to transfer TVi’s signal from its regular package to a premium package, which will lead to a sharp fall in viewers. TVi claims Volia’s decision was in response to government pressure – pressure that has forced approximately 85 other cable television providers throughout Ukraine to drop TVi’s signal in recent months, reducing its audience from 13 million in July to 9.5 million at the start of September.

While we understand that TVi was granted access to its bank accounts this week, we believe the intimidation of TVi constitutes a clear breach of the right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by numerous international conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 of the Declaration states: 'Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of frontiers.'

We respectfully call on you to ensure that TVi’s bank accounts remain accessible, that cable operators are not pressured into dropping TVi and that the campaign of state intimidation of critical media is halted immediately. We urge you to take all necessary steps to ensure that in future your country fully respects international standards of freedom of expression by dropping the proposed re-introduction of criminal libel and ensuring TVi can continue to broadcast without intimidation or hindrance.

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience and once again, reiterate our willingness to work closely with your government and our local partners to ensure a strong, independent and vibrant media in Ukraine.Yours sincerely,

 

Jacob Mathew
President
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

 

Erik Bjerager
President
World Editors Forum

 

WAN-IFRA is the global organization for the world’s newspapers and news publishers, with formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. The organization groups 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries.

cc:

UAPP, Ukraine Association of Press Publishers
AIRPU, Association of Independent Regional Publishers Ukraine
Ms Darka Chepak, Head of the Interagency Working Group

Author

Alison Meston's picture

Alison Meston

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2012-09-22 16:54

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