Fighting fakes or introducing censorship?

Author : Mykyta Sinitsyn

Source :

Because of the "letter", promulgated by the Georgian TV channel Rustavi-2, another attempt will be made to tighten the rules of the game for the media, but, as practice shows, all these attempts run into criticism of the journalistic community and Western partners
22:48, 17 January 2018

The political forces that came to power after Revolution of Dignity on the wave of nation’s discontent with censorship, with a rare obstinacy, try to impose censorship in the information space of the country. If in TV and radio broadcasts it succeeds with varying result, the Ukrainian politicians obviously lost the fight with the news. However, they are eager to get revenge.

In 2018, the traditional dispute over the dubiousness of the celebration of the Old New Year was replaced by the dispute whether the president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko is an agent of the FSB.

The reason for this were photos of a letter allegedly written by Petro Poroshenko in 2007 to the FSB director, in which he promised not to engage in anti-Russian activities and asked to be allowed to enter the territory of the Russian Federation (previously the MP was banned from entering the territory of Russia).

The documents were filed with the FSB operational case under the provisional name "Lolita". Photocopies were published by the Georgian TV channel Rustavi-2, and the leading Ukrainian media reprinted this information.

The press service of the president called the "letters" a rough forgery of the FSB, arguing that the reason for the trip indicated in the "letter" did not correspond to reality: the then MP Poroshenko could not go to the relatives of his son Oleksiy's wife, since his son married only in 2013. Oleksiy Poroshenko later specified that he met his wife in 2011.

Although not everyone took such an argument as evidence of the fake nature of the letter, the Internet resource Ukrainska Pravda, which posted this news, appealed to readers with apologies for haste and a somewhat incorrect "format" of the presentation. Also, the resource reported on the suspension of the editor who posted the news and about the beginning of their own investigation of the events of 2007.

However, the Presidential Administration has decided that this is not enough. On January 15, the chairman of the presidential faction, Artur Gerasymov, announced the need to amend the domestic legislation to combat anti-Ukrainian fakes.

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"I call on us to draft and adopt a draft law on counteraction to fakes. I'm sorry, we are on the front line. We believe that we need to create a working group. I would like to ask the chairman of parliament to create a working group to draft this law, after that - to develop and adopt it. It is the law "On counteraction to fakes," Artur Gerasymov said during the meeting of the Conciliation Council.

However, the fact that the future law will not contain censorship is somehow hard to believe, because MPs speaking against the "dictatorial" laws and censorship of the times of Yanukovych, since 2014 with enviable regularity have been trying to change the rules of the game on the information field, which is unequivocally interpreted by media professionals and the international community as an attempt to introduce censorship.

Particular zeal in this issue is observed among the deputies of the political party "Narodnyi Front".

So, on January 15, 2015, deputies from the Narodnyi Front faction, Andriy Levus, Serhiy Vysotsky and Mykola Velychkovych, submitted to parliament a bill No. 1768 proposing to prohibit the participation of foreign individuals or legal entities resident in television and radio organizations, if their country is recognized by law Ukraine the state-occupier or the aggressor state.

Arch Puddington, vice president of Freedom House, said in an interview to Inter TV channel that they are concerned about the possible adoption of laws that could limit the freedom of the media.

"Look at the consequences of such laws, introduced by Russia, which restrict the media, in fact, the news in Russia has been replaced by propaganda, so we certainly do not welcome such laws," he stressed.

Journalists also recalled that on February 5, 2015, just on the day of voting on this issue in the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine was to be visited by US Secretary of State John Kerry.

The hint was understood correctly, and the bill was not voted on February 5, 2015, as well as in the future. MPs just forgot about it.

On February 24 of the same year, appeared the bill No. 2225 of another "front-line soldier" Kostyantyn Mateychchenko. The People's Deputy proposed to amend the Criminal Code of Ukraine in order to strengthen the authorities' power, according to which for criticizing the authorities it was possible to receive up to 3 years in prison. True, even in the opinion of colleagues, this proposal was "still too hard," and after devastating criticism from all sides the draft was withdrawn. Later, the author decided to finalize it and submit it again, but in the end, in February 2016, he finally withdrew his legislative initiative.

In the summer of the same year, deputies from the Petro Poroshenko’s Bloc Ivan Vynnyk and Dmytro Tymchuk, along with the People's Deputy from Narodnyi Front, Tetyana Chornovil, presented draft law No. 2050 on censorship in Donbas conflict zone. The law should oblige journalists to coordinate their television reports with the military press services. However, after the protest of the journalists, the authors of the idea refused it.

The real buzz took place in the summer of 2017: People's Deputy of Ukraine, ex-journalist Olha Chervakova announced a new attempt to attack freedom of speech.

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"We want to include in the agenda the bill number 6688, made by people's deputies from the National Security and Defense Committee Ivan Vynnyk, Dmytro Tymchuk, Tetyana Chornovil, on countering threats to national security in the information sphere," Chervakova wrote on her Facebook page.

The danger, according to the People's Deputy, was that the bill proposed to punish "for influencing the decision-making, actions or failing to act by state authorities, local self-government bodies, officials of these bodies, citizens' associations, legal entities."

The latter could include any performance against the proposed bill or the demand for the abolition of deputy immunity. Also, the Security Service would have the right to block access to any information resource without a court decision with the help of the provider. The basis for this may be not only the decision of the court, but also the decision of the prosecutor, the decision of the investigator, agreed with the prosecutor, or the decision of the NSDC.

So because of the "letter", another attempt was made to tighten the rules of the game for the media, but, as practice shows, all these attempts come up against the criticism of the journalistic community acting in such cases as a united front, without "ideological differences," as well as criticism of Western partners. Most likely, the same fate awaits the "anti fake law."

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