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Ukraine 's democratic rating slightly improved, as to Freedom House

06.05.2020, 14:17
Photo credit: Freedom House in Ukraine Facebook page
Photo credit: Freedom House in Ukraine Facebook page

Ukraine has improved by 1 point its score as democracy since last year, as to Freedom House new report “Nations in transit”, getting from 39/100 to 40/100. Its democracy percentage is 39.88 (compared to 39.29 last year) and democracy score is 3.39 (compared to 3.36 last year).

“Ukraine has enacted a number of positive reforms since the protest-driven ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014. However, corruption remains endemic, and initiatives to combat it are only partially implemented. Attacks against journalists, civil society activists, and members of minority groups are frequent, and police responses are often inadequate”, Freedom House summarized. And previous threats to press freedom have not been countered, since “business magnates own and influence many outlets, using them as tools to advance their agendas. (…)

Journalists continue to face the threat of violence and intimidation in 2019, and Ukraine’s courts and law enforcement agents often fail to protect their rights. In May, Vadym Komarov, a journalist in the city of Cherkasy, was attacked with a hammer in broad daylight in the center of the city. Komarov fell into a coma, dying 40 days later without regaining consciousness. The case was classified by authorities as an attempted murder in connection with his journalistic work; at year’s end the police had yet to publicly name suspects.

The independent Institute of Mass Information recorded 226 media-freedom violations from January to early December 2019, including Komarov’s murder. Other violations included 20 beatings, 16 cyberattacks, 93 incidents of interference, 34 incidents of threats, and 21 cases of restricting access to public information.

Separately, in December, police arrested five suspects in the 2016 murder of journalist Pavel Sheremet, who was killed in a car bombing.”

Also the experts say “The public broadcaster Suspilne continues to exercise its editorial independence. At the same time, the media outlet has struggled with underfunding over the last three years. The 2019 budget covered only 61 percent of operating costs, leading to a shortage of staff and lack of content and equipment. Currently, the public broadcast network includes 26 TV channels and 28 radio stations, of which only a few air nationally.

In September, the National Council on TV and Radio terminated the licenses of five regional companies that broadcast Channel 112. The companies had consistently violated the license agreement and received repeated warnings. At the same time, the license for Channel 112, owned by Taras Kozak, a close ally of the pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk, was not terminated and continues to be available on satellite. Ukrainian Security Services, however, continue their investigation of the channel, which has been accused of supporting terrorism and Russian aggression after it planned to air a live TV dialogue with Russia’s Channel 1.

In July, Ukraine’s new language law came into effect. The law requires that a minimum of 90 percent of airtime on national TV should carry content in the Ukrainian language. Local channels are allowed no more than 20 percent of non-Ukrainian language content, while channels that are aired in indigenous languages (Crimean Tatar) must carry Ukrainian content in no less than 30 percent of airtime. Print media may feature other languages if also producing a Ukrainian version of the same content”.

And more generallly, Ukraine "is facing significant challenges with structural reforms and COVID-19 in 2020." Nevertheless, the election of President Volodymyr Zelensky and a peaceful transfer of power from the defeated incumbent in 2019 earned the country a slight improvement in its National Democratic Governance score".

To compare, the Estonia has the best score (6.07) and Russia has 1.39.

Freedom House observed some negative trend to take place glovbally. “A growing number of leaders around the world have dropped even the pretense of playing by the rules of democracy. (…) The erosion has left citizens especially vulnerable to further rights abuses and power grabs associated with the coronavirus pandemic.” The authors of the report stressed that challenges posed by the coronavirus crisis could significantly exacerbate and accelerate existing alarming trends in democracy around the world.

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