Does US President Joe Biden know about real situation with freedom of speech in Ukraine

Author : Hanna Herman

Source : 112 Ukraine

Another thing is how the White House assesses the consequences of violating the principles of democracy in a country whose leadership claims to have achieved a level of full compliance with the standards of a civilized state
10:17, 25 August 2021

Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelensky
Open source

By phrasing the question in this way, I am not in any way questioning Mr. Biden's awareness of the situation in my country. The White House probably knows absolutely everything (and maybe more) about the political, economic, financial, social and other problems of the country, which, due to historical circumstances mainly tied to the problem of relations between the United States and Russia, has been in the area of their increased attention for a long time.

I have not put a question mark at the end of this article’s title. Therefore, the question is rhetorical. Another thing is how the White House assesses the consequences of violating the principles of democracy in a country whose leadership claims to have achieved a level of full compliance with the standards of a civilized state.

We are talking about principles, not political preferences, right? We are talking about the fact that Ukraine is striving to become a strategic partner of the United States. But what kind of partner it wants to become? Is it only in defense? It seems to be so. Otherwise, the current political regime in Ukraine acts on the basis of its own ideas about what democracy is, and freedom of speech in particular.  

On February 2, 2021, without a court order, by the Decree of the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky #43/2021 from February 2, 2021 "On Imposition of Personal Special Economic and Other Restrictive Measures (sanctions)," 112 Ukraine, NewsOne and ZIK news TV channels were closed.

Here is the reaction of the civilized world to these sanctions. Secretary General of the International Federation of Journalists Anthony Bellanger called said that such restrictions are unacceptable in a democracy. Secretary General of the European Federation of Journalists Ricardo Gutierrez said they were not at all in line with international legal standards on freedom of expression and media freedom.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in its report, expressed concern that the closure of three television channels by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky threatens freedom of expression in Ukraine. The UN is convinced that President Zelensky's decision to close the 112 Ukraine, NewsOne and ZiK TV channels contradicts international human rights standards. "This decision is contrary to international human rights standards, as it lacks justification of its necessity and proportionality, and was not taken by an independent authority," the organization's report, published on June 1, 2021, reads.

Even before the illegal closure of TV channels, journalists of Newsone, 112 and Zik were attacked and threatened with physical violence and harassment during live broadcasts. On the night of July 13, 2019, the building in which 112 Ukraine TV channel is located was shelled from a grenade launcher. In accordance with the Criminal Code of Ukraine, shelling of the TV channel was qualified as a "terrorist act." The Ukrainian authorities are still not investigating this case.

At one time, Ukrainian media published information that two of the three judges who are considering the case on extension of the TV channel's licenses were summoned to the Chair of the Office of the President of Ukraine. The TV channel stated that direct pressure on judges could result in termination of digital broadcasting, followed by the planned termination of satellite broadcasting by the authorities and ousting of the channel from cable networks.

On July 8, 2019, the TV channel was forced to announce the cancellation of the first non-political teleconference between Ukraine and the Russian Federation due to threats from right-wing organizations. In the evening of the same day, members of the right-wing radical organizations pelted the territory of the NewsOne TV channel with flares and explosives.

Right-wing organizations pelted territory of NewsOne TV channel with flares and explosives
Open source

The inaction of the authorities provoked an intensification of the activities of the radical activists, who launched a campaign to obstruct the work of 112 Ukraine, NEWSONE and ZIK TV channels. Former head of the regional branch of the military and political movement Right Sector Serhiy Sternenko, urged not to hire employees of the TV channels 112 Ukraine, NEWSONE and ZIK. On his Facebook page, he created a list with the personal data of all employees of the TV channels. Google document with names, surnames, phone numbers, and personal data of channel employees also appeared on the Telegram channel. The campaigners called for reprisals against media workers. The authorities took no action to protect the journalists.

On February 26, 2021, journalists from the illegally closed 112 Ukraine, NewsOne, and ZiK TV channels created a new TV channel - Pershiy Nezalezhniy. It started broadcasting on television at 18:00, but under pressure from the authorities and law enforcement agencies, it was disconnected from broadcasting an hour after its start. Telecommunication and cable providers, as well as satellite operators, received instructions from the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) not to provide any services to the TV channel, despite the existing contracts and agreements. At the same time, the National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov claimed on February 26 that the authorities allegedly had nothing to do with the disconnection of the signal of Pershiy Nezalezhniy TV channel. 

There are many examples of harassment, attacks on journalists, and obstruction of their professional duties in Ukraine. It is needless to list them because even a single case of violation of fundamental human rights and freedoms in a democratic country has to receive the state’s instant reaction in form of restoration of violated rights. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Ukraine.

After 30 years of independence, my country has not yet achieved real democracy. How long the way to this goal will depends, first of all, on the Ukrainian people. And on our western partners as well.


Hanna Herman,

Chairperson of the Supervisory Board of the Charity Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech


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