The draft law “On Media” (№2693d), which restricts freedom of speech in the country, should be withdrawn from the consideration by the Parliament of Ukraine. This is stated in the appeal from journalists, media and public organisations, mass media, bloggers, contributors on social networks to Ukraine’s president and MPs.

“The authors of the bill ignored the appeals of journalists from leading websites and bloggers, who have the support of millions of citizens, local newspapers and Ukrainian TV companies, journalists and media organisations and trade unions,” Serhiy Tomilenko, chairman of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, stated.

In particular, the revised version does not take into account the comments of the OSCE, the Main scientific and expert directorate of the Verkhovna Rada, experts of the Council of Europe:

  1. The draft law “On Media” establishes restrictions on the rights of freelance journalists, as it recognises the professional rights to information and accreditation only of those journalists whose credentials indicate registered media.
  2. The bill also provides for the blocking or deregistration of all media, not exclusively illegal content, which is a disproportionate sanction.
  3. One did not take into account the following Council of Europe experts’ remark: “to liberalise the regulation of online media and the print media, as well as to provide additional guarantees against possible abuses in the application of sanctions (such as blocking online media).”

Experts stressed that the European Union countries do not regulate the content of online media; no EU regulatory document mentions online media. The Council of Europe’s consultants recommended that Ukraine postpone the introduction of online media regulation and wait for the European Union to develop and test solutions in this area. There are still no EU decisions and the practice of applying those EU Directives that the bill authors allegedly try to implement.

“We emphasise once again that the changes that are needed by media legislation are the registration procedures simplification, self-regulation opportunities enhance, and an increase of possibilities for journalists to perform their work qualitatively, without external intervention (especially from the state),” the appeal authors said.

Besides, the attempts to restrict freedom of speech via the law “On the Security Service of Ukraine” are also unacceptable. It provides for the SBU’s right to restrain citizens’ access to information resources, revoke TV licenses, interfere with postal operators and providers, and set up the means of secretly receiving information from communication channels without a court decision. This contradicts both the law and Ukraine’s international obligations.

Natalia Tolub

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