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Media workers say some parts of the Law "On Media" are a threat to the media reform

03.05.2023, 17:53

Multiple CSOs and media groups say that some parts of the Law "On Media" pose a threat to the media reform and Ukraine's path to European integration. On May 3, one of the signatories of the statement, the Center for Democracy and the Rule of Law, posted a corresponding statement on their website.

The signatories reminded that the Law "On Media", which has received a high assessment from the Council of Europe reviewers, entered into force on March 31.

However, the statement says, just adopting the law "does not guarantee that it will be properly implemented."

"It largely depends on the resources allocated for it, the availability of qualified staff and timely decisions. We note that the Law has not yet entered into force, as some of its points have already been suspended for 2023 – the year when most action for its implementation are set to be taken, such as the development and adoption of by-laws, the creation of an electronic office, etc.," the statement reads.

The authors of the statement recall that the Law "On Amendments to the Law of Ukraine 'On the State Budget of Ukraine for 2023'", suspended the Articles 78, 84, 89 of the Law of Ukraine 'On Media' for 2023, among other things. All these norms guarantee financial support for the media regulator: remuneration for the members of the National Council of Ukraine on Television and Radio Broadcasting; for the employees of the National Council's apparatus; the overall amount of funding for the regulator as guaranteed by the law; an important additional source of financial support for the regulator – at least 4% of the fee for using Ukraine's radio frequency spectrum for a given year.

As the signatories note, the suspension of these norms not only jeopardizes the quality of the law, but also created a legal contradiction "when the mechanism for paying the National Council members went missing."

"Furthermore, the amendments that the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine made to the April 20, 2016, Resolution No. 304, which sets the salaries and general terms of payment for the media regulator's staff at the level of UAH 21,000 for a member and UAH 25,000 for the chairperson, correspond neither to the mandates nor the regulator's independence principle. After all, all the norms related to the regulator's financial independence have been suspended, and all funding, namely the salaries of the members and the staff, is regulated by the executive branch of the government manually," the statement reads.

The authors of the statement note that this situation "directly contradicts" the requirement laid out in Art. 30 of the directive, which stipulates that states must ensure that regulators are legally separated and functionally independent from their governments, as well as that national regulatory institutions and bodies have adequate financial and human resources, as well as enforcement powers, which would allow them to effectively perform their functions and facilitate the work of ERGA.

The signatories stress that the temporarily reduced funding for the media regulator should be laid out in the law, and this issue should not just be left for the government to control.

"Given that the European Union will monitor not just the adopted legal acts' quality and their compliance with European standards, but also their application and implementation in practice, we consider the dependence of the National Council members and staff on the executive branch of the government to be dangerous from the point of view of preserving Ukraine's EU candidate status candidate and the continuation of membership talks," the statement reads.

The signatories called for a review of priority expenditures for the proper entrance of the Law "On Media" into force, which would involve EU representatives, and for the harmonization of the law and the practice of its application in terms of ensuring the independence of the media regulator with the EU Directive on audiovisual media services.

The address is open for signature; to join, write to [email protected].

The statement was signed by: the Center for Democracy and the Rule of Law, the Institute of Mass Information, the Digital Security Laboratory, the Ukrainian Institute of Media and Communication, the "Souspilnist" Foundation, the Human Rights Platform, "Internews-Ukraine", the National Media Association, "Detector Media", the Suspilne, the 1 +1 media, the Starlight Media.

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