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Charity Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech shares results of its work, condemns government for trying to limit freedom of speech in Ukraine

Source : 112 Ukraine

Head of the Foundation Anna Herman insisted that members of the Foundation have been doing everything possible for freedom of speech to exist in Ukraine
16:13, 22 October 2021

Charity Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
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Charity Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech held a press conference, during which it summed up the work over the first six months of existence. Pershiy Nezalezhniy TV channel broadcasted the event live.

Head of the Foundation Anna Herman insisted that members of the Foundation have been doing everything possible for freedom of speech to exist in Ukraine, for reporters to be able to do their job and not to be afraid of the government; for the rule of democracy, not totalitarianism.

"Our task, the task of our Foundation on the first stage of our work was to do everything so that the world gets to know the real status of freedom of speech in Ukraine. So today, as I present this six-month report, I should prove that we managed to do it. The whole world already knows what is Ukrainian government and how it treats media freedom… You know, every government is afraid of free media. And it’s understandable, it’s almost OK. The government should be afraid. But only a criminal kind of power shuts down the TV channels; only a criminal kind of power beats up the reporters; only a criminal kind of power tells the journalists what kind of guests they should and shout not invite, and what kinds of topics should or should not be discussed. Only a criminal authority, namely the ex-head of Zelensky’s Presidential Office could have said that we don’t need journalists. Yes, the government of criminals doesn’t need reporters because it does something that it fears to be discovered to a wide publicity.  So, when the main independent TV channels were shut down, our Charity Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech  was created – in response to that. So, six months of our work showed that the situation with freedom of speech gets worse. Earlier, the government closed and oppressed only the independent channels, but now it also tries to clamp down on the governmental channels, the ones working for the government”, Herman said.

Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
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In turn, Ph.D. in Law, academician Vitaliy Zhuravsky claimed that the reporters of the illegally closed TV channels (112 Ukraine, NewsOne, ZiK and Pershiy Nezalezhniy) should file an appeal to the ECHR because the courts in Ukraine “do everything possible and impossible so that the cases about violations of freedom of speech are not investigated”. 

"We’re sincerely grateful for the French lawyers for quite an operative analysis of the violations of rights of reporters, violations of rights of TV channels. I would still like to bring your attention to the fact that two courts (Supreme Court of Ukraine and Kyiv District Administrative Court) are doing everything within and beyond their grasp so that the cases of violation of freedom of speech are not investigated. I mean, there’s an appeal from the Pershiy Nezalezhniy, which was closed without a charge or trial; they were on air merely for an hour. There’s also an appeal from three TV channels – 112 Ukraine, NewsOne and ZiK. The lawyers mark that the right for a fair consideration of their case was violated. It’s a grave violation of Article 1 of the European Convention for Human Rights. According to the Western lawyers, one should go next to the Supreme Court and Kyiv District Administrative Court, appealing against the perpetrated injustice – that’s what it is, in fact. So they decided to act this way: the case is stalled in the court, and while it is stalled, the media and reporters have no right to appeal against it in the ECHR. But they actually do, and it’s the key thing in the country where there’s a reason to go to court against the Ukrainian government for the violation of their right for a fair trial”, Zhuravsky said.

Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
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Serhiy Kravchenko, a member of the Supervisory Council, head of the National Medical Chamber of Ukraine and the Institute for Vaccinology and immunobiological drugs states that the Ukrainian government destroys the media, which helped it come to power.

"Unfortunately the doctor’s conclusion is the following: our state and society are sick now, if we take into account the regularities that already became normal: the pressure on media and the combat against dissidence. I gather that, judging by how things go, we’ve got ourselves a progressing Bolshevism on Bankova and Hrushevskogo streets. Currently, the acting government destroys the same press, which helped it come to power”, Kravchenko said.

Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
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ТV hostess Diana Panchenko added that currently, more and more reporters began to observe pressure upon freedom of speech in Ukraine. But everyone remained silent when Zelensky closed 112 Ukraine, News One, ZiK and Pershiy Nezalezhniy.

"October 21 is the equator of Zelensky’s presidency. One wise politician said that in the eyes of a nation, a president before and after the equator makes two different presidents. People have been showing a different attitude to the president after half of his time in office.  The signals that we’re getting from our colleagues, the ones about freedom of speech status are crucial. When colleagues from UA:Pershiy claim that members of the Servant of the People party refuse to come to their shows and push demands for that to happen… we observe it all since the first workday of the Parliament, and that of Zelensky. Servants of the People who appeared on the show said they did not want to discuss social tariffs, and they only wanted to talk development of digital services. The fact that many reporters are waking up and focusing on freedom of speech is a big marker. I’d love to support them and then also ask them – where were you, when they closed three TV channels, and then the fourth one followed? In ten years of my work on TV, I could never imagine that a TV man might become a true dictator for journalists”, she said.

Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
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Alexis Guedj, a French lawyer and teacher of communication law at CELSA analyzed the decision of the Ukrainian authorities to close the news TV channels 112 Ukraine, ZIK and NewsOne, and termination of Pershiy Nezalezhniy broadcasting. 

"This case should be considered, in particular, in the context of Ukraine's implementation of a policy aimed at fighting the opposition media. The companies have appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, but the petition is still pending and has no final ruling. The consideration procedure was blocked. Along with the lawsuits in Ukrainian courts, the TV companies want to appeal to international bodies as there are many arguments that confirm the violation of the rights and freedoms of these channels. We recommend that TV channels report a gross violation of paragraph 1 of Art. 6 of the Convention on Human Rights. Ukrainian courts approached by company representatives, including the Supreme Court and the Kyiv District Administrative Court, should be prosecuted for denial of justice. We also recommend that TV channels report violations of Art. 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The decree of the President of Ukraine against three TV channels, and actions of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine aimed at closing Pershiy Nezalezhniy TV channel are interference with freedom of information, it is illegal. We recommend that companies report violation of Art. 1 of Protocol 1 to the ECHR. The decree of the President of Ukraine on the closure of TV channels is interference with property rights. We advise that companies report violations of Art. 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The decree of the President of Ukraine on sanctions and TV channels, as well as the actions of the SBU to terminate broadcasting of one of the channels, discriminate against TV companies on the basis of their opinions, and call them pro-Russian. This discrimination does not meet the requirements of legality and proportionality", Guedj said.

It should be noted that employees of illegally closed TV channels and websites have repeatedly held protests and addressed letters to US President Joe Biden, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, PACE President Rik Daems, UN, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, International the human rights organization Freedom House and other organizations with a request to pay attention to the total censorship and the threat to freedom of information in Ukraine.

Today, the actions of the Ukrainian authorities are increasingly condemned by leading international human rights organizations, well-known politicians and experts. The news about the closure of our TV channels was published in all the world's leading media.

The representatives of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission, Spokesperson of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Marta Hurtado and others have already condemned the actions of the Ukrainian authorities. A complete list of international organizations that supported Ukrainian journalists can be found HERE.

Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
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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.

Former owner of the Pershiy Nezalezhniy TV channel Roman Lyubytsky spread a false statement that he had nothing to do with the sale of the TV channel to the Novyny media holding. Lyubytsky's statement is not true, as his authorized representative acted on his behalf, and Lyubytsky himself received payment for the sale of the TV channel.

On August 20, the sanctions were imposed on the editor-in-chief of the Internet portal Strana.ua Igor Guzhva, the publishing companies of Strana.ua, blogger and journalist Anatoly Shariy and his wife Olga. As a result, Strana.ua and Shariy.net were blocked.

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.

In connection with the illegal actions of the authorities, the journalists appealed to the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken regarding the introduction of total censorship and a serious threat to freedom of information in Ukraine, handed over an open letter to European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy from 2010 to 2014 Stefan Füle and ex-President of Poland Aleksander Kwasniewski, Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression Irene Khan, and the Spokesperson of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Marta Hurtado. And the Council of Europe recommended journalists of illegally closed Pershiy Nezalezhniy channel to appeal to ECHR.

At the beginning of September, the journalists of the illegally closed TV channels were visited by the Secretary of the Senator of France, Vice-Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defense and the Armed Forces of the French Senate, member of NATO PA and member of the Inter-Parliamentary Union Joël Guerriau and member of French Senate, member of the commission of Foreign Affairs and Defense Forces Nathalie Goulet. The senator said that their visit have started with the visit of the Embassy of France in Ukraine and meeting with the ambassador, during which, the diplomats were informed by the concern of the Union of Journalists of France and the OSCE about the situation with freedom of speech in Ukraine.

In addition, the journalists 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 came to the YES Brainstorming conference, which started on September 10 in Kyiv, to talk about the situation with freedom of speech in Ukraine.

The journalists of the closed media sent a letter to the PACE delegates, where they told about the pressure of the authorities on the independent media in Ukraine and asked for their assessment. They were also supported by the Charity Foundation for the Protection of Freedom of Speech in Ukraine, whose Chairperson sent a letter to US President Joe Biden in connection with the government's persecution of independent media in Ukraine.

Earlier, on October 27, a regular session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe started. The journalists of Pershiy Nezalezhniy worked at the site and informed its participants about the illegal actions of the Ukrainian authorities against independent media, such as 112 Ukraine, NewsOne, ZIK, Pershiy Nezalezhniy, as well as Strana.uа and Shariy.net agencies. As part of the Assembly meeting, journalists handed over the letters, and brochures detailing the pressure on freedom of speech in Ukraine to hundreds of European politicians, in particular, MEPs, PACE delegates, Foreign Ministry officials, European politicians, ministers and officials from different countries.

Over the past four months, the world media, European politicians, and experts have published more than 96,900 materials on the persecution of the opposition and independent TV channels by the Ukrainian authorities.

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