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Yurchyshyn: The attack on Suspilne will be perceived by Europe as an attack on freedom of speech

02.05.2024, 18:03

The attack on Suspilne will be perceived by all European pro-reform forces as an attack on freedom of speech and an attempt to smear the journalistic community.

Yaroslav Yurchyshyn, chair of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Freedom of Speech, made this statement at a joint meeting with the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy on May 2, reports Detector Media.

The meeting discussed the statements by deputy Maryana Bezuhla. Yurchyshyn sees her statements as manipulation that deals a significant blow to Suspilne's image and discredits the broadcaster, "thus being an instance of pressure on the public broadcaster bordering on an outright assault on freedom of speech."

Yurchyshyn also believes that the attempt to deprive the broadcaster of the evening slots aims to review the funding allocation.

"I appreciate Suspilne's powerful gesture: if you try to put pressure on us – bye, United Marathon. As we understand that the logic is as follows. Bye, marathon? Let's cut the budget, then. And, unfortunately, the majority who defends Suspilne will not necessarily be enough to protect the budget funding, and the lack of funding is a threat to independence and efficiency, as Suspilne also attracts funds from international partners and is one of the hallmarks of the effectiveness of our reforms.

"If Suspilne's indicators fall as a result of being removed from the telethon, this may be an argument for cutting the budget funding, which will make it quite difficult to persuade our international partners that we are cutting the budget funding to be economical," Yurchyshyn said.

He considers it important to identify the person who initiated Sospilne's removal from the evening slots, because "the person initiating these changes is not a signatory to the telethon memorandum."

"It's a very dubious situation that follows the traditional story of decisions being made with no legal grounds beat for beat – I mean shutting down channels," said Yurchyshyn.

The Committee chairman also noted that Suspilne's relations with the telethon are the responsibility of the company, its supervisory board, and the management board, and it is up to those bodies to decide whether to stay on the telethon.

"What definitely warrants a response from the Committees is the manipulative media attack by individual officials and the decisions regarding the telethon initiated by an unidentified someone and based on no reasonable arguments.

"It is necessary to say this on the record: an attack on Suspilne will be perceived by all European pro-reform forces as an attack on freedom of speech and an attempt to smear the journalistic community," said the Committee chair.

Earlier, the PBCU board chair Mykola Chernotytsky declared that pressure on Suspilne Broadcasting is unacceptable and the company is ready to either stay on the telethon on parity terms, or expand its broadcasting on Pershiy channel.


It was reported on April 24 that the US State Department included the national telethon "United News" in its report on human rights violations in Ukraine in 2023. The report noted that the telethon provided the government with an "unprecedented level of control over primetime television news."

On April 24, deputy Maryana Bezugla made several Facebook posts on the feasibility of funding six state-owned channels, listing Suspilne as a "state-owned" broadcaster, too.

She noted that Suspilne, Dom and FreeDom have a small outreach and "diversify money allocation", and offered to fund just channel instead, namely, Rada or Suspilne.

On April 25, Svitlana Ostapa, the head of the Suspilne Supervisory Board, reported that the government plans to remove Suspilne from the evening slots of the telethon. The Suspilne Supervisory Board came out with a counter-proposal regarding the telethon slot reassignment: to give all primetime slots to Suspilne.

On April 29, Suspilne appealed to the heads of four Verkhovna Rada committees with a request to assess the statements by deputy Maryana Bezuhla and to look into the attempt at putting pressure on the media company and undermining the reform to create an independent broadcaster, which was one of the prerequisites for Ukraine's accession to the European Union.

On April 30, the Media Movement members called to cease pressure on Suspilne and to let the company keep the evening primestime slots in the telethon.

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