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Several media NGOs supported sanctions against “Medvedchuk’s TV channels”

05.02.2021, 16:11
Photo credit: agropolit.com
Photo credit: agropolit.com

A number of Ukrainian media organizations deeclared that suspending of Ukraine TV channels related to Viktor Medvedchuk was a matter of security, not freedom of speech. This is said in a statement signed by media organizations on sanctions against Medvedchuk's ally Taras Kozak and his channels 112 Ukraine, NewsOne and ZIK, as “Detector Media” reported.

The statement said that one of the threats to freedom of speech today was the imitation of that freedom, when information was used not as a means to establish the truth and to support public debate, but as a means to consciously and systematically do harm to individuals, communities or states. 

The organizations support the sanctions imposed on Medvedchuk's channels, but note that Ukraine needs to update its media legislation. The regulatory body should also have at one’s disposal some appropriate tools to respond in case of violations and use of mass media for some covert action operations in media field.

Full text of the statement:

Our supreme duty is to be on the defensive. In today's world, the relationship between freedom of speech and propaganda has become much more complex. Propaganda, misinformation and malicious information operations often use freedom of speech against itself. They use democracy to overthrow democracy. This is the strategy of Kremlin propaganda in Ukraine and many other countries around the world. 

Today, the threat to freedom of speech is not limited to direct censorship or direct reprisals. The mimicry of freedom of speech is also a threat. Within this mimicry, the information is used not as a means to establish the truth and support public debate, but as a means of consciously and systematically harming individuals, communities or states. 

Propaganda and malicious informational influences have always been the beginning of something much worse. Genocide and great crimes begin in the minds of first a few people and then of millions. That is why it is so important to repel propaganda.  

We also need to realize today's challenges. If earlier democracies could find the weaknesses of authoritarian regimes to spread the values ​​of human dignity, rights and freedoms, today the opposite is true: authoritarian regimes have learned to find the weaknesses of democracies and undermine them from within. They parasitize on the values ​​of democracy in order to destroy those democracies. That is why democracies need to become stronger and more determined. They need to realize that they are at risk. 

There has long been an understanding in Ukraine that freedom must not only be supported but also protected. That is why Ukrainian experts have long been talking about the necessity to find a balance between freedom and security . If democracies are not secure, there will be no freedom. If Ukraine does not defend its sovereignty against the attack of Russian authoritarianism, we will have no human rights. 

That is why we believe that the work of the channels affiliated with Medvedchuk in Ukraine is not a question of freedom of speech, but a question of security. Not even because of what they say, but because of who they are connected to and where they are funded from. Information resources that are financially linked to the aggressor state or to people who have a close relationship with the main culprit of the current war, the Russian president, cannot work in a country that has been the victim of an external aggression. Every minute of their speech is the blood of Ukrainians. 

That is why, we support the decision of the National Security and Defense Council and the President of Ukraine to impose sanctions on persons connected with the activities of these TV channels. But we realize that this is only the first step. Democracy must be defended, and it must be done democratically and within the principles of the rule of law. That is why Ukraine needs to update the media legislation and provide the regulator (along with the guarantee of its competence and independence) with appropriate tools to respond to violations and manifestations of the use of mass media for covert action operations in the media field.

The Ukrainian context is unique in many respects. It is here that some challenges are born, which then appear in other countries. Today, in the Western world, the debate has shifted to technology. They say that the algorithms of large technology companies are to blame for the spread of propaganda, polarization, and hatred. But this is a shift in the debate in the wrong direction. Algorithms are always backed by people, and sometimes by states. Politics is always behind technology. So the problem of misinformation and propaganda today is first of all a political problem, and only then a technological one. Based on its experience, Ukraine has a chance to influence global discussions on information issues - primarily through our awareness of the security and political dimensions of current information trends. 

Internews-Ukraine

Center for Democracy and the Rule of Law

Institute of Mass Information

“Suspilnist” Foundation

Institute for Regional Press Development

NGO “Detektor Medi”

As IMI reported, on February 2, the head of state enacted the decision of the National Security and Defense Council of February 2, 2021 "On the application of personal special economic and other restrictive measures (sanctions)", which provides for the introduction of sanctions against the people for five years MP Taras Kozak and legal entities licensed by 112 Ukraine, NewsOne and ZIK TV channels.

On February 2, 112 Ukraine, ZIK, and NewsOne said they viewed the sanctions as a political crackdown and would fight for the right to continue broadcasting.

On February 3, the United States supported Ukraine's sanctions against Russia.

On February 3, a number of NGOs and experts explained that sanctions against Medvedchuk's TV channels - 112 Ukraine, NewsOne and ZIK - did not pose threat to freedom of speech, as these channels were instruments of foreign influence and posed a systemic threat to Ukraine's information security.

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