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EU: Ukrainian authorities must act within the law and in no way infringe on media

Source : 112 Ukraine

Richard Tibbels stressed that Ukrainian should not infringe on free media
15:43, 22 October 2021

Journalists' rally
112ua.tv

The EU attaches the highest importance to the freedom of expression, and the independence of the media, and European politicians are discussing the situation of media and media freedom regularly with their Ukrainian counterparts. The head of the Eastern Partnership Division of the European External Action Service Richard Tibbels stated this in the letter to the head the Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech Hanna Herman.

He stressed that Ukrainian should not infringe on free media.

"The EU attaches the highest importance to the freedom of expression, both online and offline and the independence of the media.  We are discussing the situation of media and media freedom regularly with our Ukrainian counterparts. The EU supports Ukraine’s efforts to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity through lawful means. While Ukraine’s efforts to defend itself from disinformation are legitimate, the measures taken should not come at the expense of freedom of the media and need to be proportional to the aim," Tibbels noted.

He stressed that freedom and diversity of the media are important elements in building a viable society and democracy, and for further integration into the EU.

"The EU and Ukraine are aligned in their conviction that freedom and diversity of the media are important elements in building a resilient society and democracy, and further integrating with the EU," the European politician summed up.

The actions of the Ukrainian authorities were condemned by leading international human rights organizations, well-known politicians and experts. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expresses concern about sanctions that led to the closure of 112 Ukrainem Newsone and Zik TV channels and stated that this decision is contrary to international standards.

“The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights regularly monitors the human rights impact of government-imposed sanctions that affect freedom of expression. We expressed our concern to the Ukrainian authorities with the February 2 decision to impose sanctions, which led to the closure of three TV channels, is contrary to international standards.

UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission urged to lift sanctions and restore broadcasting of TV channels.

OSCE Chair Ann Linde responded to address of journalists of Ukrainian media illegally closed by authorities and stated that freedom of media was top priority.

Freedom House President Michael Abramowitz sent a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden ahead of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's visit, noting that the latter continues to use executive power, without judicial review, to sanction media outlets, tech platforms, journalists, and websites under the pretext of fighting disinformation. (a letter from September 26, 2021).

You can find the statements of other international organizations and politicians at this link.

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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