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Human rights activists backed Hromadske in litigation with C14

07.08.2019, 20:48
Photo credits :C14 members march on the anniversary day of the creation of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army on October 14, 2018 in Kyiv.
A number of international human rights organizations have criticized the decision of the Economic court of Kiev, which upheld the defamation claim of the right-wing C14 organization against Hromadske, as Hromadske reported. Thus, “Freedom House Ukraine” qualified this decision as a dangerous precedent of interference with freedom of opinions and expression in Ukraine. “C14 can contest/deny Hromadske’s characterization "but it is the right of the media to publish their view, in good faith, based on the information they gathered" on C14 & its members, "many of whom declared that they joined the group because of its neo-Nazi orientation", Matthew Shaaf, director of Freedom House Ukraine” said in his Twitter. "(…) abusing the right to protection of honor and dignity by far-right groups that use force against people from different ethnic or religious communities or from opposite political and cultural backgrounds," the Freedom House in Ukraine’s statement said. The director of the Ukrainian branch of Freedom House, Matthew Schaaf, believes that a pernicious effect of the court decision may be a strengthening of media self-censorship in Ukraine. “Increase in self-censorship among media in Ukraine could be the most pernicious impact of ruling against Hromadske for calling C14 neo-Nazi. 48% of journalists already report self-censorship on ideological topics & nationalism in recent survey by informHR and dem_initiatives”, Matthew Shaaf said. “Reporters sans frontiers” called the court's decision "shameful." Johann Birr, Director of the “RSF branch in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, expressed his full support for Hromadske. “A shameful decision, with worrying implications for independent reporting on Ukraine's far right groups!”, Johann Birrposted in Twitter. The Kharkiv Human Rights Group also considered the decision as unjust. The statement said that whether or not it harms the reputation of the organization, it cannot be defamed if it is true. “C14’, a Ukrainian far-right group, considered by most experts to be neo-Nazi, has won a defamation suit against Hromadske TV over the latter’s description of it as neo-Nazi in a tweet .  Hromadske plans to appeal against this disturbing court ruling which appears to have been based more on acknowledgement that the term is insulting and damaging to C14’s ‘reputation; than on whether it was justified. C14 is repeatedly referred to as ‘neo-Nazi’ by well-known researchers into the far-right, such as Vyacheslav Likhachev, who has monitored anti-Semitism and xenophobia in Ukraine for over a decade, Anton Shekhovtsov and Andreas Umland, as well, with less authority, as by the author of these words.  The term is very frequently used in the media, however ‘C14’  chose to lodge its defamation suit in connection with a Hromadske International tweet  from 4 May 2018.  This identified the young men who had seized Rafael Lusvarghi, the Brazilian Donbas fighter found in a monastery outside Kyiv and dragged to the SBU [Ukrainian Security Service] buildings as from the “neo-Nazi group C14”, Kharkiv human rights group said. “Whether or not something damages an organization’s reputation, it can only be deemed defamatory if it is untrue.  Hromadske is adamant that no expert assessment was provided to prove that the term had been used unfairly.  It is difficult to imagine how such an assessment would be possible, when the above-mentioned experts in this field are unanimous in finding the term legitimate.” On August 6, IMI reported, the Commercial court of Kyiv upheld the C14’s claim against Hromadske. Last year, a tweet calling C14, “neo-Nazis,” caused the independent new media outlet to be served with a lawsuit. Hromadske is appealing the court’s decision.
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