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No massive violations of freedom of speech in local elections - IMI monitoring

26.10.2020, 16:34

Local elections in Ukraine on October 25 were held without massive violations of freedom of speech. IMI experts recorded four incidents of violations of journalists' rights, these were cases of physical aggression.

These are the results of the monitoring of the NGO "Institute of Mass Information" following the results of the election day.

Violations were recorded in four regions : in Kherson, Kirovohrad, Dnipropetrovsk and Donetsk regions. 

In particular, members of election commissions banned journalists from taking photographs and videos at polling stations, and physical force was used by a candidate against a journalist.

Thus, IMI recorded the following cases of violations of freedom of speech:

-In Kherson secretary of the commission #650705 Tetyana Omelchenko prohibited journalist online edition of "Most" Serhiy Nikitenko to record video at the polling station. She closed Serhiy Nikitenko's camera lens with her hands and called a police officer.

-In the village of Stavydla, Kirovohrad region, at the polling station #350536, the journalists with “UA: Kropyvnytsky” were banned from filming at the polling station. 

-In the city of Ternivka in the Dnipropetrovsk region, Vitaliy Aizatulov, a candidate from the “Servant of the People” political party, used physical force against Alyona Poddueva, editor-in-chief of the city newspaper “Visti Ternivky”, at the polling station #120939.

-In Bakhmut, Donetsk region, the chairperson and members of the election commission prevented journalist for “Vilne Radio” Margarita Dniprovska from observing the vote count and taking photos at polling station #140609. 

On October 25, the journalists contacted the IMI hotline asking legal advice as to the issues related to the activities of mass media on election day. 

In particular, journalists asked about the possibility of reporting about events related to the election process; regarding the need to taking down of election campaign materials which had been posted on the Internet before October 23. 

Journalists also asked for permission to show spoiled ballots in the story without the possibility of identifying the voter who did it. They were also asked about news stories about the president's five questions, including whether it was possible to show how the police checked the documents of those who conducted the survey, and whether their documents could be shown.

Members of election commissions also contacted the IMI hotline on journalistic issues. In particular, they asked what elements in a journalistic press card are indispensible, whether a journalist's press card could be issued with no photo of its holder on. They were also asked, how the election commission had to react if a deputy mayor came to the polling station, but she presented a journalist's press card.

In addition, many calls to the IMI hotline came from ordinary voters, observers, and election commission members on issues unrelated to the activities of journalists and the media.

There were various appeals: how to make changes to the voter list, how to correct mistakes in the ballot, whether this was legitimate to measure the temperature at the entrance, whether people with signs of respiratory disease could vote, and so on. They even asked where to complain if the observer was not paid as promised.

Please, note that the IMI legal hotline does not stop with the end of election process. Media lawyers Roman Golovenko and Ali Safarov provide legal advice on a variety of issues related to mass media and information, the work of journalists and the activities of mass media. Please, call IMI hotline number: 050-44-77-063. Questions can also be sent to IMI: [email protected].

It will be recalled that the early elections to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on July 21, 2019 were held in compliance with the legal professional rights of journalists: one case of violation of freedom of speech was recorded. However several incidents have been recorded when some intruders got press cards. 

During the first round of the presidential election in Ukraine on March 31, 2019, IMI experts recorded a total of six cases of violations of journalists' rights.

The second round of the election of the President of Ukraine on April 21, 2019 took place in compliance with the legal professional rights of journalists: only one case of violation of freedom of speech was recorded .

In the 2014 election of the President of Ukraine, seven cases were recorded.

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