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Bill #4487 as provocation against Ukraine

25.01.2022, 15:20

As they say, "the devil is in the details." Bill #484487 began as a very legitimate and sound initiative aiming to provide internally displaced persons with appropriate mechanisms for exercising and defending their rights. This concerned procedural issues in obtaining certificates and other documents, etc. But at some point, under the guise of protecting the rights of internally displaced persons, someone decided to put into action something other. In particular, to redistribute information flows in the state, to restructure the state television system in Ukraine. 

The bill has been prepared for the second reading and is supposed to be considered on January 27, 2022. At the same time, even more norms appeared in the text before the second reading, which are reformatting the Ukrainian information television space. If in the first version, it was proposed only to add a foreign broadcasting system (ie what now exists under the name "Dom TV channel") to the universal software service, which all software service providers have to diffuse, the bill intended to be submitted for second reading has some important changes. Besides the fact that the Dom TV channel is included in the universal program service, they propose to take down the restrictions on its diffusing in Ukraine in the ways, including over-the-air broadcasting from the Law of Ukraine "About system of foreign broadcasting of Ukraine". We will remind that according to the current legislation, the system of foreign broadcasting isn’t supposed to cover the territory of Ukraine. In addition to the changes in the broadcasting system, it is also proposed to change the inclusion in the universal program service of the parliamentary TV channel "Rada": it is noted that its successors automatically join it. It is not clear what the successors the parliamentary TV channel Rada may have and what for, as a matter of fact, they were spoken of.

Interestingly, the provisions on changes in the television system are included to the "Final and Transitional Provisions" of the draft law #4487. In compliance with the Constitution of Ukraine and the Rules of Procedure of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, this part should be devoted to the implementation of the law; to define what measures and in what order the government should take to make the new law work. Instead, the bill #4487 "Final and Transitional Provisions" does not concern the introduction of new mechanisms for the protection of internally displaced persons. In fact, the "Final and Transitional Provisions" is a separate bill imposing some important changes to the information legislation: bypassing the relevant committees dealing with information activities or freedom of speech. This is con trick, cold deck play, crooked gambling, it is difficult to findanother word for such actions.  

Let me remind you that, in accordance with current legislation, in particular Article 7 of the Law of Ukraine "On Television and Radio Broadcasting", state regulation of the national television and radio information space is carried out in accordance with the National Television and Radio Information Space Development Plan which is worked out and passed by the National Council according to the principles, mission and priorities, as defined by the legislation. Article 11 of the same law stipulates:

Article 11. Structure of the national television and radio broadcasting of Ukraine

 The structure of the national television and radio broadcasting of Ukraine consists of: municipal television and radio organizations, joint-stock company "National Public Television and Radio Company of Ukraine" (hereinafter - NPTU), State Television and Radio Company "World Service" Ukrainian Television and Radio Broadcasting, State Enterprise “Parliamentary TV channel Rada, private (independently from the way of difussing), public and other TV and radio companies, founded in compliance with the law.

 

At the same time, the Resolution 1466 (2005) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe "On the Fulfillment of Duties and Obligations of Ukraine" of 5 October 2005 mentions:

  1. Whilst welcoming the broad reform agenda of the new authorities, the Assembly considers that the following specific measures need to be taken in order to accelerate the reforms that will transform Ukraine into a stable and prosperous European democracy.
  2. With respect to the improvement of the conditions for the functioning of pluralist democracy in the country, the Assembly calls on the Ukrainian authorities to :

12.4. transform the state broadcasters into public service broadcasting channels in line with relevant Council of Europe standards ; start privatisation of the printed media founded by public authorities ; guarantee the transparency of media ownership ; create equal conditions for the functioning of all media by revising the 1997 Law on Governmental Support for the Media and Social Protection of Journalists ; ratify the European Convention on Transfrontier Television (ETS N°. 132) ; ensure that the new version of the Law on Television and Radio Broadcasting is in line with Council of Europe standards and with the recommendations of its experts.

That is, the current legislation of Ukraine provides for the existence of state television, but with a clear and systematic subdivision: foreign broadcasting for foreign audiences and the Rada TV channel as a parliamentary TV channel. And in addition, public television as an all-Ukrainian television that acts in the interests of society as a whole. At the same time, Ukraine has a commitment to the Council of Europe to eventually turn the totality of state television into public one.

Instead, what they do propose to do to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine? It is proposed to adopt a bill that strengthens the state broadcasting system, removing all possible formats of public and civic oversight over the activities of these TV channels.  

Given the reasonable threat of a full-scale Russian invasion, the introduction of such a bill in the session hall looks like a provocation aimed at undermining the Council of Europe's confidence in the state of Ukraine. Adoption of this bill will not improve the situation of internally displaced persons, but will provide the government with a substantial information resource that is not accountable to society and could be used for the ruling party's political struggle against its opponents or for corruption schemes and budget laundering. This is definitely not in line with Ukraine's direction towards Europe, approved in the Council of Europe Resolutions.

One can only sincerely hope that the MPs of Ukraine, in particular from the Servant of the People faction, will take their work responsibly and will put the national interests of the state of Ukraine above the narrow political interests of certain individuals.  

By Ali Safarov

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