Authorities replied to 4 out of 11 public appeals of media community since the beginning of the year – IMI
During the first quarter of 2021, the Ukraine media community have made 7 statements over freedom of speech cases inside the country and two statements in support of Belarusian journalists. In addition, some media outlets and journalists made two public appeals to the government protesting against prejudice to their rights. Authorities publicly responded to four statements.
These are the results of the IMI's monthly monitoring “Freedom of Speech Barometer”, as part of which the Institute of Mass Information also follows the reaction of the journalistic community to violations.
Ukraine journalists and media NGOs addressed the National Police, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the President of Ukraine, the High Council of Justice, the High Qualifications Commission of Judges, the Council of Judges of Ukraine and the Supreme Court, the Verkhovna Rada, the Cabinet of Ministers and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Statements of Ukrainian media and media organizations:
January 24 - a statement by the Media Movement calling on the National Police to immediately investigate the actions of the NGO "Journalists Against Corruption" and to refrain from persecuting activists for comments in mass media.
January 27 - Appeal of the Commission on Journalism Ethics to the National Police and the Ministry of Justice with a request to to verify the activity held by the “Journalists against Corruption” news agency and newspaper, the National Union of Independent Journalists of Ukraine, the “Tavriya News” news agency, the “Liga Inform” newspaper, and the “Business Companion” magazine for forgery of documents, abuse of the rights of a journalist, obtaining a certificate of state registration under a false pretense, as this is said in the statement signed by the Commission on Journalism Ethics, made public on January 27.
On January 31, more than 20 Zaporizhzhya journalists made a public appeal to the national authorities to intervene with the situation due to the systematic denial of access of journalists at the session of the Zaporizhzhya City Council and the meetings of the standing deputy commissions. Due to the journalists' appeal, the issue was submitted to the parliamentary committee for freedom of speech, the police opened a criminal case, and in February the journalists were admitted to the City Council session, although it was forbidden to move around the city council building.
On February 3, the journalistic and media community reacted to the sanctions imposed on 112 Ukraine, ZIK and NewsOne on February 2. In particular, a number of NGOs stated that sanctions against Medvedchuk Group TV channels did not threaten freedom of speech, as these channels were instruments of foreign influence and posed a systemic threat to Ukraine's information security.
On February 4, Ukrainian NGOs called on the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky to veto Law #3450 ““On Amendments to Some Legislative Acts of Ukraine Concerning the Regulation of Certain Issues of Protection of Whistleblowers” and return it to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine for revision. The experts noted that despite a number of forward-looking rules, the law restricted the rights of whistleblowers and weakened their protection, contradicted the very definition of "whistleblower" and did not provide clear guarantees for the anonymity of sources. On March 3, the president Volodymyr Zelensky submitted his proposals the Law “On Amendments to the Law of Ukraine“ On Prevention of Corruption ”Concerning the Regulation of Certain Issues of Protection of Whistleblowers”, which was adopted on February 4, 2021 to the Verkhovna Rada.
On February 6, Media Movement supported sanctions against Medvedchuk's channels , noting that "lies, which are persistently and often repeated, foment hatred, are detrimental to society and have nothing to do with journalism."
On April 1, IMI sent an open letter to the High Council of Justice, the High Qualifications Commission of Judges, the Council of Judges of Ukraine, and the Supreme Court over the illegal restriction of journalists' rights in the courts. The Institute of Mass Information has recorded several incidents of denial of access to journalists to public court hearings without proper legal grounds. This is especially true for high-profile cases, which are the subject of heightened public interest. IMI called on the highest bodies of judicial self-government and supervision: to secure ceasing of the practice of unlawful selective non-admission of journalists to public court hearings and to bring judges who have allowed illegal restrictions on the rights of journalists, violation of the requirements of publicity of the trial, to disciplinary or other legal liability provided by law.
Appeals of journalists:
On February 4, in Transcarpathia, two investigative journalists Stanislav Danko and Olena Mudra called on the Ministry of Internal Affairs to respond more effectively to violations of their rights. They sent an appeal to the Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov and to the leadership of the Transcarpathian police due to an improper response of some local police units to the reports of alleged violations of journalists' rights. The letter listed the facts, in particular, about the closure of criminal proceedings for failure to respond to Stanislav Danko's journalistic request by the Road Service, the refusal of the Vynohradiv city police to open criminal proceedings on the statement of journalist Olena Mudra for failure to respond from the City Council on information request. The journalists received a reply from the Ministry of Internal Affairs to their appeal, but they were not satisfied with this response.
On February 25, the Vinnytsia-based online edition “20 Minutes” responded to the decision of the Holosiivskyi District Court in Kyiv to block access to 426 websites as part of criminal fraud proceedings. The publication claimed the decision of the court to block his site, which was included in the list of 426 sites, to be tool of pressure of the authorities, and will appeal against such a decision. On February 25, Nadiya Maksymets , a spokeswoman for the Kyiv City Prosecutor's Office, said that law enforcement had dropped a criminal case in which the Holosiivskyi District Court of Kyiv had decided to block access to 426 websites.
Besides this, Ukrainian media professionals made public two statements in support of their Belarusian colleagues :
On February 16, Ukrainian NGOs called on the Ukrainian authorities to publicly condemn the the Belarusian authorities' onslaught and political pressure on human rights defenders and independent journalists.
On February 18, Ukrainian women journalists and women media professionals expressed their support for convicted Belarusian journalists of Belsat TV channel Kateryna Bakhvalova (Andreeva) and Daria Chultsova, who were imprisoned for two years for streaming from a protest rally. On February 21, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Minister of Culture and Information Policy Oleksandr Tkachenko in a joint statement condemned the harassment of journalists in Belarus. "The whole democratic world recognizes the media as the fourth estate and does not interfere in their professional activities. The attack on the freedom of speech, life and health of journalists in the Republic of Belarus openly violates these basic principles, ”the statement reads.