Employees of 112 Ukraine, NewsOne, and ZIK TV channels, illegally closed by the Ukrainian authorities, Pershiy Nezalezhniy, closed by a letter from the Deputy Chairman of the Security Service without a trial, as well as Strana.ua and Shariy.net outlets, wrote an open letter to European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy from 2010 to 2014 Stefan Füle and ex-President of Poland Aleksander Kwasniewski, who came to Kyiv for the YES international conference, about the serious threat to freedom of information in Ukraine and the introduction of total censorship.
In the letter, the journalists recalled that the last two years in Ukraine have been marked by an increasingly fierce struggle between the authorities and the unwanted media, which are not afraid to tell the truth about the numerous mistakes of the current government and dare to voice a direct disregard for its commitments and promises to its voters.
“In particular, by grossly violating the rule of law, out of court (by the decision of the National Security and Defense Council, while deprivation of media licenses is possible by court decision only), the Ukrainian authorities banned the broadcasting of three leading news channels – 112 Ukraine, NewsOne, and ZIK. Following the directives from a usual letter of the Security Service of Ukraine deputy head – without trial again – the authorities criminally stopped the broadcasting of the Pershiy Nezalezhniy TV channel in an hour after the broadcast began: this channel united journalists of three closed channels. Also due to the illegal sanctions, the authorities have stopped the work and are threatening the complete closure of Strana.ua and Shariy.net,” reads the letter.
Find the full text of the letter here:
Dear Mr. Füle and Mr. Kwasniewski
Journalists of four opposition TV channels, Pershiy Nezalezhniy, 112 Ukraine, NewsOne, and ZIK, as well as Strana.ua and Shariy.net outlets, use this opportunity to pay their respects and address your attention to the astonishing non-compliance with the basic principle and the main value of a developed civil society – freedom of speech and freedom of expression – by the Ukrainian authorities.
The last two years in Ukraine have been marked by an increasingly fierce struggle between the authorities and the unwanted media, which are not afraid to tell the truth about the numerous mistakes of the current government and dare to voice a direct disregard for its commitments and promises to its voters.
In particular, by grossly violating the rule of law, out of court (by the decision of the National Security and Defense Council, while deprivation of media licenses is possible by court decision only), the Ukrainian authorities banned the broadcasting of three leading news channels – 112 Ukraine, NewsOne, and ZIK. Following the directives from a usual letter of the Security Service of Ukraine deputy head – without trial again – the authorities criminally stopped the broadcasting of the Pershiy Nezalezhniy TV channel in an hour after the broadcast began: this channel united journalists of three closed channels. Also due to the illegal sanctions, the authorities have stopped the work and are threatening the complete closure of Strana.ua and Shariy.net.
Today, the actions of the Ukrainian authorities are increasingly condemned by leading international human rights organizations, prominent politicians, and experts. All the world-leading media published news about the closure of our TV channels.
It is a great honor for us to convey this letter to you and to express our concern about the blatant attack on press freedom in Ukraine. In further contacts with the Ukrainian authorities, we urge you to make it clear that restricting freedom of expression and, in particular, blocking our media without an independent trial, seriously undermines the rule of law in Ukraine and appears to be intolerable in the EU. In addition, we ask you to publicly respond to the situation around the closed media and to initiate discussions on this issue during your communication with European politicians.
Briefly, the main circumstances of the closure of the above media can be described as follows:
On February 2, 2021, the Ukrainian authorities closed the 112 Ukraine, NewsOne, and ZIK TV channels without any legal grounds. Almost 1,500 journalists were thrown overboard behind Bankova's whim. However, the journalists did not give up and created a new TV channel Pershiy Nezalezhniy, which united the teams of three closed channels.
On February 26, Pershiy Nezalezhnyi began its broadcasting, but an hour after the broadcast began due to pressure from the Security Service of Ukraine, which sent a letter to telecommunications service providers, the channel's satellite broadcasting was cut off, despite previous cooperation agreements with them. The TV channel did not work for a day, and again, without any legal grounds, its journalists were denied the right to work and were deprived of access to their audience.
On August 20, authorities blocked the work of two popular online media in Ukraine, Strana.ua and Shariy.net.
Earlier, in July 2020, the authorities revoked the broadcasting license of the KRT TV channel after the broadcast of state ceremonies in Belarus.
The actions of the Ukrainian authorities became widely known in the world and were criticized by relevant organizations. In particular, only in recent months has the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed concern about the sanctions imposed, which led to the closure of 112 Ukraine, NewsOne, and ZIK, and called it a decision a one that opposes international standards (OHCHR spokesperson Marta Hurtado's statement of 24 August 2021).
The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission noted (Irene Khan's report of June 21, 2021) that censorship of broadcasting in Ukraine is not only incompatible with international human rights treaties, but also perpetuates misconceptions that create fear and incite public distrust. institutes ".
PACE Rapporteur on Media Freedom and Protection of Journalists, Austrian Member of Parliament Stefan Schennach, said that Europe was extremely concerned about the catastrophic situation with freedom of speech in Ukraine and stressed that the PACE Commission on Human Rights would work to end impunity for Ukrainian law enforcement. journalists (statement of September 2, 2021).
FreedomHouse President Michael Abramovitz also sent a letter to US President Joe Biden ahead of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's visit, noting that the latter continues to use the executive branch without judicial supervision to punish the media, technology platforms, journalists and websites under the pretext of combating misinformation. August 26, 2021).
Ukrainian officials have crossed all bounds of reason and continue to disregard Ukrainian law and international norms, deliberately destroying freedom of speech in Ukraine. But we do not set ourselves the goal of fighting the current government. We, as journalists, just want to keep working and tell people the truth about what is happening in the country and abroad. However, we have been denied this legal right.
Therefore, we ask you to respond to this situation and give your assessment of the situation with our TV channels. We are full of hope for your support for our activities.
Sincerely, Ukrainian media teams:
Earlier, the staff of TV channels and media outlets, illegally closed by the Ukrainian government, appealed to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights with a request to pay attention to the problem of the destruction of freedom of speech in Ukraine and to influence the Ukrainian government in general and President Zelensky in particular.
At the end of August, journalists of the illegally closed media 112 Ukraine, NewsOne, ZIK, Pershiy Nezalezhniy, KRT, Strana.ua, and Shariy.net held a large rally at the US Embassy in Kyiv, during which they handed over a letter about illegal actions of the authorities in the person of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and also called on US President Joe Biden to raise the problem of Zelensky's destruction of freedom of speech in Ukraine.
Earlier, hundreds of the journalists of 112 Ukraine, NewsOne, and ZiK came to UN Office in Ukraine to show gratitude for the report declaring the closure of TV channels illegal.
On February 2, President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree on the imposition of sanctions against 112 Ukraine, NewsOne, and ZIK TV channels. According to the decree, which came into force from the moment of signing, sanctions were applied to TV channels for five years. This provides for blocking the broadcasting of all three TV channels.
On February 26, journalists of the TV channels illegally closed by President Volodymyr Zelensky united and created a new TV channel - Pershiy Nezalezhniy. The founders of the new media are a group of journalists who previously worked on the 112 Ukraine, NewsOne, and ZIK channels. However, within an hour after the start of broadcasting, Pershiy Nezalezhniy TV channel was illegally turned off under pressure from the authorities.
Leading European politicians, international and Ukrainian experts, and the world media criticized Zelensky's decree on the closure of the TV channels 112 Ukraine, NewsOne, and ZIK.
Over the past four months, the world media, European politicians, and experts have published more than 80,000 materials on the persecution of the opposition and independent TV channels by the Ukrainian authorities.