Human Rights Watch published their World Report 2019 – the 29th annual review of human rights practices around the globe, summarizing key human rights issues in more than 90 countries and territories worldwide, drawing on events from late 2017 through November 2018.
'The EU took a firm stance against the continued crackdown on basic freedoms and dissent in Russia. The EU publicly pressed for the release of several human rights defenders and government critics and opponents detained for their peaceful activities. While the EU addressed rights violations in areas of Ukraine under the control of Russian backed rebels and in Russia-occupied Crimea, it has been more cautious when Ukraine’s government curbed free speech in the rest of the country', the report reads.
Speaking about the freedom of speech-related issues in a more detailed manner, HRW claimed that 'the Ukrainian government continued restrictions on freedom of expression, freedom of information, and media freedom, seeking to justify them by citing the need to counter Russia’s military aggression in eastern Ukraine and anti-Ukraine propaganda'.
'According to the Institute for Mass Information, a media freedom watchdog, as of October, 201 press freedom violations took place in 23 regions. These ranged from threats and intimidation to restricting journalists’ access to information. In May, an appellate court upheld a regional court’s decision to suspend the retrial of Ruslan Kotsaba, a journalist who had been prosecuted on treason charges for calling for boycotting conscription. The court concluded that the prosecution failed to properly formulate the indictment', reads the document.
The organization mentions cases of Kyrylo Vyshynsky, the editor-in-chief of RIA Novosti news, and Natalia Sedletska, whose privacy was violated through the Prosecutor's Office 'reviewing 17 months’ worth of cellphone data'. HRW also pointed out that 'authorities requested the data as evidence in a criminal investigation against National Anti-Corruption Bureau Director Artem Sytnyk, who is accused of disclosing state secrets of journalists'.
Further, HRW focused on the issue of Ukrainian political prisoners illegally held in Russia. 'In June, a court in Moscow sentenced Roman Sushchenko, a Ukrainian journalist, to 12 years in prison on highly dubious espionage charges. Oleg Sentsov, a filmmaker from Crimea and an opponent of Russia’s occupation of it, continued to serve a 20-year sentence on bogus terrorism charges', the document said.
As we reported earlier, Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada urged the country’s National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine to introduce sanctions against several Ukrainian TV channels. 229 MPs supported the draft law No. 9157 on 'Approval of recommendations to introduce personal special economic sanctions and other restrictive measures (sanctions)'.
Thirteen European parliamentarians appealed to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to revoke the decision on imposing sanctions on 112 Ukraine and NewsOne TV channels. The leaders of 112 Ukraine and NewsOne channels arrived in Brussels personally to talk to the lawmakers and get their support. The issue of freedom of speech in Ukraine is raised at the international conferences, forums, and in the offices of European parliamentarians. The MPs carefully study the situation regarding the sanctions against Ukrainian broadcasters and sign the petition.
Another petition to support 112 Ukraine also officially gained 25,000 signatures. Though the authorities take no other measures yet.
112 Ukraine is an informational and analytical TV channel which broadcasts 18.5 hours per day on air and uses modern technologies to be the first channel to provide the unbiased information on important and interesting events going on in Ukraine and in the world. This is mentioned in the respective statement by Artem Marchevskyi, the Chief Producer, and Yehor Benkendorf, Director General of 112 Ukraine.