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Freedom of Speech-2013: final conclusions – Institute of Mass Information

16.01.2014, 11:51

The year 2013 became the worst year for freedom of speech in Ukraine in the last 11 years (that is, since the IMI started conducting the monitoring). This is the result of the annual study by the Institute of Mass Information.

In total, in 2013, the Institute of Mass Information registered 496 cases of violations of freedom of speech, which is almost twice as much as in 2012 (283 cases), six times as much as in 2009 (79 cases), and almost three times as much as in 2004 (167 cases).

The largest number of violations was registered in the category «impeding journalist activities» - 129 cases (in 2012 – 96). The largest number of obstructions was registered in February (14), March (15), June (15), and October (15).

The second largest group is physical assaults (101 cases, in 2012 – 65). Most of them, 70 out of 101 cases, are cases when journalists, who covered the protest rallies, illegal construction sites, and mass events, were assaulted. Eleven offices of media outlets were attacked in different ways (from shots fired in the windows to cables cut).

The third largest category in the list of violations of freedom of speech was censorship (63 cases). In 2012 separate journalists would resign to protest against censorship and paid-for stories (dzhynsa), and in 2013 – entire editorial and journalist teams would do so. At least, 5 journalist teams had to resign from their media outlets because of censorship and pressure on the editorial policy (TViKorespondentForbesInter TV channel, and others).

In 2013, Ukrainian journalists were forced to cope with a new challenge: numerous DDoS attacks and cybercrime – 49 cases, which is unprecedented in all the years of monitoring, as earlier this was not even a separate category. Thirty five journalists experienced threats and surveillance.

IMI also registered 33 cases of political pressure on media outlets and journalists, 30 cases of legal pressure (lawsuits), and 13 cases of economic pressure (for comparison, during the entire 2012, only 43 cases of indirect pressure on media outlets and journalists were registered).

Eight journalists were searched, another seven were detained when performing their professional duties.

The most resonant events of 2013 were the brutal beating of the well-known journalist and activist Tetiana Chornovol, whose bruised face can be called the true symbol of Ukrainian freedom of speech, journalists’ large-scale resigning from the TViTV channel, and the UMH holding after it was purchased by Sergiy Kurchenko, which effectively killed any trust to the media outlets Forbes and Korespondent.

At the same time, according to the IMI data, in 2013 only 5 cases opened over Article 171, made it to the court. Among them was the case on beating of the journalist of the TV Channel 5 Olga Snitsarchuk and the photoreporter of the Komersantnewspaper Vlad Sodel, the punishment under which became the harshest in the entire history of application of Article 171 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (the hired thugs, or so-called titushkis got suspended sentences and paid compensation in the amount of several thousand hryvnias).

According to the IMI executive director Oksana Romaniuk, these numbers show that in 2013 in Ukraine both the foundations of democracy and observance of human rights have deteriorated significantly. The trends observed in 2013 (subterfuge, proliferation of censorship, and sharp increase in pressure on journalists both through methods of physical aggression and application of economic, political, and other tools) manifest that the current authorities have no intention of securing the citizens’ rights for information, and intend to offer only their version when covering events. This policy will result only in dropping rating of media outlets, which would end up cooking up distorted or incomplete information, and, at the same time, in growing trust to those journalists and media outlets ready to stand up to censorship and pressure, and thus to consolidation of their position. The year 2013, with its numerous challenges divided journalists into two categories – those able to make independent decisions and assume responsibility for information they transmit – and those working as mere technical staff, or willing to stoop to manipulations and blackouts of uncomfortable topics.  

 

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