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Statement by Ukrainian media organizations regarding the distrust to the leadership of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine

16.03.2018, 15:31
Photo - Ukrinform

We, the Ukrainian media organizations, declare the mistrust to the leadership of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine (NUJU) and the information it discloses about the state of freedom of speech and the state of the Ukrainian media market.

During the last year, the leadership of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine carried out systematic manipulation of concepts and provided false information about the safety of journalists, the progress of individual media reports and media markets in general, which not only misled the Ukrainian public but also misinformed the international community. For example, in asserting attacks on journalists, the NUJU counts on their number of members, who may be not engaged in journalistic activities. An example of this is the statement by the NUJU regarding assault on the assistant director of the port "Chornomorsk", a member of the NUJU - Vladimir Bukach. In announcing the "90 cases of physical aggression" recorded in 2017, the NWU is still silent about nearly 100 cases of physical aggression against practically working journalists, which were also recorded in 2017.

The principles by which the leadership of the NUJU is governing for choosing which "cases" should be included in the list of "physical aggression" are unclear and not articulated. NUJU does not disclose the concept of "physical aggression", and to the list are selectively included both the beatings, obstructions and threats, as well as cases that are not related to journalistic activities at all.

The validity of the NUJU's statement about the complete absence of investigations is not correct. According to the General Prosecutor's Office, in 2017, 23 cases for "journalistic articles" were handed down in court, despite the fact that statistics on penalties for interfering journalism were carried out, while the courts issued nine sentences, of which five were indictments. The statements by the head of the NUJU do not only correspond with reality, but also produce a cooling effect in the field of protecting journalists' rights, creating the impression of total impunity for the attackers.

The leadership of the NUJU claims that "271 journalists" had been beaten on the Maidan, and that there is a complete absence of investigations and punishments regarding these beatings. But in this case, the information about the complete absence of investigations and punishments is not true, and the figures, which the leadership of the NUJU states differ significantly from the figures of other media organizations. However, it is impossible to carry out cross-check data, since NUJU does not publish its list of "victims" during the year.

We, the Ukrainian media organizations, consider the latest "resolution" of the NUJU proclaimed by the "Round Table on Freedom of Speech” on March 2, 2018, as a political manipulation.

In particular, the requirement to stop the work of regulators before the end of parliamentary and presidential elections with the argument that the National Council of Ukraine on Television and Radio Broadcasting is "a whip that affects the editorial policy of television channels" has no analogues in the experience of European countries and directly counterbalances the interests of the political/business clans. Stopping regulators will only lead to increased disinformation and manipulations on oligarchic channels, an uncompetitive political struggle with the use of dirtier media technologies, narrowing the space for pluralism and independent journalism.

We systematically advocate on the adoption of a new law on audiovisual services and consider it to be a priority media reform now, which will allow to launch the process of co-regulation and will provide opportunities for the emergence of high-quality media on TV channels and the fight against misinformation. Over the past two years, the National Council has begun (for the first time in 20 years!) to react to the outright violations in the activities of broadcasters who incite hostility, display unacceptable content for the children’s audience or distribute manipulative "news", as in the case of fake "congressional hearings" on the TV channel NewsOne.

Instead, the position of NUJU’s in relation to the regulation of the media market openly plays into the hands of the oligarchic owners of the TV channels.

We, the Ukrainian media organizations, express public distrust to the leadership of the NUJU, since its rhetoric contains manipulations that, due to surprising circumstances, correspond to the interests of certain political circles and oligarchic clans, distort reality and promote the spread of fakes and misinformation about the real situation in the media.

Given that the management of the NUJU systematically manipulates the information, does not provide confirmation to its lists and statements, publishes false information, makes unbalanced statements that are playing on the clans and political interests, and since the leadership of the NUJU does not publish the audit confirmed by the actual number of members of the organization, does not publish sources of its funding (even though is partly funded by the state budget, practice of which is a remnant of the USSR) is not acceptable for a truly independent media structure, we do not recommend journalists, state institutions and international organizations to use information about Ukrainian media sphere provided by NUJU without proper verification from other sources.

We believe that the Ukrainian media community should initiate the creation of an entirely new journalistic organization based on independence, accountability and transparency.

  •     NGO Institute of Mass Information
  •     NGO "Media Detector"
  •     Pylyp Orlyk Institute of Democracy
  • Center for Democracy on Rule of Law
  •     NGO "Internews Ukraine"
  •     Mohyla School of Journalism

The statement is open for signatures. If you would like to sign, please contact us at [email protected]

Examples of NUJU’s manipulations in the area of ​​freedom of speech:

The NUJU declared that it had recorded "90 cases of physical aggression" in 2017. According to the Institute of Mass Media (IMI), which has monitored the state of freedom of speech for more than ten years and has a transparent methodology, in 2017 there were 175 cases of "physical aggression" (if, as for example, the NUJU had put together threats, obstructions, beatings, property damages, attacks on media offices).

Criterias and methodology for evaluating media processes from the management of NUJU are opaque and absent in the public space.

At least 20 cases from the list 90 of the NJJU are not related to journalistic activities.

The NUJU did not monitor the "physical aggression" until 2017, so it is not clear what the leadership of the NUJU is guided by, when claiming on "an increase in the number of attacks" on journalists. The management of the organization has nothing to compare to draw conclusions about the growth / fall of the level of physical aggression.

According to IMI, in 2016 there were 190 cases of "physical aggression", in 2015 - 214 cases. If we were to speak exclusively about beatings, then in 2017 there was no "growth" either: last year there were 29 beats of journalists, in 2016 there were 30, in 2015 - 58, while in 2014 there were 286 casualties.

The head of NUJU Serhii Tomilenko constantly states about "no punishments" and "zero level of disclosure of crimes". However, according to the GPU, in 2017 23 proceedings were investigated and transferred to court, 20 of which - for Article 171 of the CCU (obstructions) and 3 - under Article 345-1 of the CCU (threats or violence against journalists). Regarding judicial sentences, the situation is as follows: according to information from open court registries, in general in 2017, nine sentences were imposed on journalistic cases, of which four were acquittal and five accused.

The NUJU claims that "271 journalists" were beaten during the Maidan and that "none of these cases has been investigated." In spite of numerous requests from media organizations, during the year, the NUJU did not publish a list of these cases. According to IMI data available publicly and collected in 2013-2014 together with Media Detector and by, then the Media Law Institute, 206 journalists were injured during the Maidan. According to data from the open registers, at least ten Maidan case cases which involved journalists were investigated and filed for trial in 2018.

The conflict with the so-called "112" channel, referred to by the NUJU as an example of pressure, is actually caused by the actions of five licensees who, having received a license for regional broadcasting, did not comply with the license conditions and began to speak as a single national channel. This clearly defines the purpose and conditions of the competition for the development of regional broadcasting. Other disputes also fall within the competence of the regulator, and in case of disagreement, broadcasters can go to court and win cases if the arguments are not in favor of the regulator.

For example, "Radio Era" received over 317 thousand UAH of a fine for violating the quota of songs in Ukrainian. The largest amount in 2017 is due not to the size of the deviation from the quota, but to the size of the Radio Era network, which results in a large amount of the license fee, which is the basis for a fine (5%). Together with Radio Era, 17 violators were fined in total for over 1 million UAH in 2017. In particular, the fine for Kiss FM amounted to more than 215 thousand UAH, for the radio "Chanson" - more than 125 thousand UAH.

The Era TV channel abandoned its broadcast license because it fulfilled its own obligation to waive the license in case of the creation of a public broadcaster, which happened in 2001 when it obtained a license for analogue broadcasting at UT-1 frequencies. The satellite broadcasting license for the Era TV channel was canceled by the National Council, which also did not launch the round-the-clock satellite broadcasting service and violated the terms of the license for a long time.

Radio Vesti has lost its licenses, because it had a couple of not canceled sanctions from the National Council. In addition, the ownership structure of the radio station caused doubts in its transparency (in the ownership structure there was no connection to Oleksandr Klymenko; as he is considered to be an investor of the radio station operated by his wife Olga Semchenko, although the National Council did not use this argument when refusing to renew licenses). "Radio Vesti" has taken advantage of its right to challenge the decision of the regulator. In one of the cases, the court of first instance supported the position of the National Council.

We do not understand what cases of "forceful influence" from the DFS or the GPU on the media and journalists is NUJU talking about, with the exception of cases concerning economic crimes committed against the owner of "" Igor Guzhva, and cases concerning the assets of the former fugitive minister Alexander Klimenko, affiliated with the media-holding Vesti. Igor Guzhva and Oleksandr Klymenko are citizens of Ukraine, and only the court can prove or refute their possible involvement in any offenses.

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