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Illegal closure of opposition media in Ukraine widely condemned by relevant international organizations, well-known politicians and experts

Source : 112 Ukraine

Today, the actions of the Ukrainian authorities are receiving increasingly sound condemnation on the part of respected international human rights watchdogs, prominent politicians, and experts
22:47, 19 October 2021

112 Ukraine, NEWSONE and ZIK
www.dw.com

The Ukrainian authorities, headed by President Zelensky, are fiercely fighting the dissenting media which are not afraid of telling the truth about the failures of officials and about the lies that this government feeds the Ukrainians.

In particular, in grave breach of basic principles of rule of law, extrajudicially (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. By the ordinary letter of the Deputy Head of the Security Service of Ukraine and again without trial, the authorities criminally stopped the broadcasting of Pershiy Nezalezhniy TV channel, which united the journalists of three closed channels, an hour after the broadcast began. In addition, due to the illegal sanctions, the authorities have stopped the work of Strana.ua and Shariy.net agencies and there are now under the threat of complete destruction.

Employees of illegally closed TV channels and websites have repeatedly staged protests and sent letters to US President Joe Biden, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the UN, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, International human rights organization Freedom House and other organizations with a request to pay attention to the total censorship and threat to freedom of information in Ukraine.

Today, the actions of the Ukrainian authorities are receiving increasingly sound condemnation on the part of respected international human rights watchdogs, prominent politicians, and experts. The news about the closure of our TV channels has already been published in all the world's leading media.

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The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed concern over the imposed sanctions, which led to the closure of 112 Ukraine, NewsOne and ZIK TV channels and stated that this decision contradicted the international standards.

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

Personal sanctions imposed have had serious adverse effects on the right to freedom of expression, including the right to information, as protected by law.

Related: MEP: US not interested in peace in Ukraine, it is not profitable for them

The decision fails to demonstrate the necessity and proportionality of the specific action taken, in particular by failing to clearly indicate the specific threats that the television channels may pose to national security.

While awaiting a reply, I urge that all necessary interim measures be taken to halt the alleged violations and prevent their re-occurrence.

UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission states that the decision to shut down 112 Ukraine, NewsOne and ZIK TV channels contradicts international human rights standards

On February 2, President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree to put into effect the decision of the National Security and Defense Council on imposition of sanctions on Taras Kozak and eight of his companies, which led to the closure of three TV channels (112 Ukraine, NewsOne, and ZIK). 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.

Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: This decision might affect freedom of expression in Ukraine

Although the final goal for the state is the protection of the national security, including counteraction disinformation, the OHCHR is concerned that this decision might influence the freedom of expression in Ukraine and reminds that the state must respect, protect and provide the right for freedom of expression, including the right to get and spread various information and ideas.

The Spokesperson of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Marta Hurtado: The OHCHR is concerned over the impact of the decision of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on sanctions against 112 Ukraine, NewsOne and ZIK TV channels on freedom of expression in the country

This decision led to the closure of three TV channels. The OHCHR is concerned that this would "affect freedom of expression in Ukraine."

Related: MEP on pressure on opposition: We see increase in repression against those whose opinion differs from authorities' one

The Spokesperson reminded that "the state must respect, protect and provide the right for freedom of expression, including the right to get and spread various information and ideas. Currently, we are reviewing this decision and assessing its compliance with international human rights law," she noted.

OSCE Chair Ann Linde responds to address of journalists of Ukrainian media illegally closed by authorities: Freedom of media is top priority

As Foreign Minister and as OSCE Chair, I stand fully behind the right to freedom of opinion, expression and information, as well as free, independent and pluralistic media, in line with international law and OSCE commitments. Sweden's bilateral support to Ukraine's reform agenda has for many years focused i.a. on independent media and will continue to do so.

As Chair of the OSCE, Sweden places top priority on respect for human rights, democratic principles, and the rule of law. This includes freedom of media. The participating States have made strong commitments in these areas, and we continue to emphasise this in our role as Chair. To highlight the importance of respecting freedom of the media in the OSCE region and to promote full implementation of participating States' commitments in this regard.

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).

European Economic and Social Committee answered journalists of media illegally closed by Zelensky: Ukrainian authorities must observe freedom of speech, we are following the situation

As you are aware, we have been following the situation, which you are describing in details in your letter, since the very beginning and we have always been very clear in our position. In this regard, our stance is in line with that of other Institutions of the European Union. The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) had always been a solid supporter of freedom of expression, as well as of transparent, independent and diversified media. These are pillars of the EU-Ukraine partnership while being core principles and values of the European Union to which Ukraine adhered by signing the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement and by committing itself to its full implementation. We are very well aware of the challenges the Ukrainian media space has to face given the scale of disinformation campaigns affecting your country, including from abroad, but we believe that they must be fought with in line with principles of freedom of media.

Former president of the European Economic and Social Committee Henri Malosse said: Ukrainian authorities shut down TV channels and restricts freedom of speech

This issue is extremely sensitive for Ukraine. It chose the path of democracy and the European model. At the same time, we have recently seen actions that can be interpreted as ban on freedom of speech under the pretext of disinformation. Today we see tendencies ... in Ukraine, in Europe, everywhere, that the disinformation which does exist, but sometimes it becomes an excuse for some governments to try to ban some media and restrict freedom of speech. Freedom of the media should be a key value and should not be restricted except by a court ruling. As in the case of Ukraine in a conflict situation, I see a possible restriction on the part of the authorities and it is wrong.

Related: MEP: Medvedchuk is the only Ukrainian politician who is on peace process side

French Senator Goulet from the rostrum during the debate reported about extrajudicial reprisals against 112, ZIK and Newsone by the Ukrainian authorities

During the last few months, many mass media were closed without any ground and without trial on the pretext of the protection of national security. However, the acceleration of the assumed measures of the Ukrainian authorities toward the leading TV channels and websites: 112 and ZiK news TV channels, Strana.ua website, and consequently attacks on the principles of freedom of speech lead us to the necessity to respond. The opposition leader was put on house arrest and punished without proceeding. The authorities must find a balanced and proportional solution to address media problems, a solution that preserves media pluralism, free flow of information and diversity of opinion, in line with international standards and OSCE commitments. The decisions of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine on the application of sanctions against several individuals and legal entities led to the prohibition of access to various media. OSCE and many media have already warned about the danger of this situation.

French Senator Claude Kern in PACE criticized sanctions of the National Defense Council against the Ukrainian media and suggested creating a commission to assess freedom of speech

This proposal to adopt a resolution comes from the situation after the decisions of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine on the imposition of sanctions against several individuals and legal entities, which led to the ban on access to media such as TV channels and Internet websites: 112, ZIK, Strana.ua, Shariy.net, NewsOne websites, while Viktor Medvedchuk is under house arrest. Thus, the fundamental principles of freedom of the press must be applied in accordance with relevant international standards and OSCE commitments.

PACE member from United Kingdom Lord Russell commented on pressure on the media in Ukraine: it is necessary to support those politicians who advocate freedom of media

In modern Europe, freedom of speech means the opportunity to learn about points of view with which you strongly disagree with. But they have the right to be published and read. However, you also have the right to argue with them - if you think that this is not true. And you can do it through the media or in the courts. This, in my opinion, is freedom of speech. If a country's citizens strongly support freedom of speech and freedom of the media, they should vote for a political party that stands for the freedom of media.

Related: MEP proposes to freeze oligarchs' accounts and disconnect Russia from SWIFT system because of Ukraine

Member of the PACE delegation from Denmark Kim Valentin believes: if there is no freedom of speech, there is no real democracy

One of the goals of democracy is to ensure freedom of speech, and if this is not the case, then there is no real democracy. Your country, Ukraine, wants to have real democracy. You have to look at other European countries and see how it works there. And if you need Europe's help in the future, you need to make great efforts to ensure freedom of speech in Ukraine. And this should be an extremely important component of the democratic process.

Vice-Chairperson of PACE Kiljunen about illegal closure of TV channels in Ukraine: there can be no serious political and democratic processes in a country where people are not allowed to freely express opinions

This is a very fundamental question when we talk about a democratic society and we work here, at PACE, Europe's main organization for human rights and democracy. Naturally, freedom of expression is one of these fundamental rights. And there can be no serious political and democratic processes in a country where people are not allowed to freely express opinions. Democracy faces many challenges, and the biggest of them is when the authorities interfere with the work of the media.

Member of PACE delegation from Austria Stefan Schennach is also concerned about the authorities’ persecution of independent Ukrainian media: only a court can close a media, not the government

I am aware of the situation in Ukraine and I am alarmed. Journalism in Ukraine is not an easy profession. Freedom of speech is one of the most important components of democracy. The three branches of power are legislative, executive and judicial, and the media is the fourth. Having free media, being able to say what you want, is serious. The authorities cannot close the media in Austria - only a court can do this. We have rules for how a TV or radio company can obtain a license. This is decided by an independent committee. It considers cases of possible violations. There is no country in Western Europe with problems with freedom of speech. Powerful public and private media, function there plus unprofitable ones. This means, there are three possibilities for realizing media freedom. There are also telecommunications laws that must be followed in order to qualify for broadcasting rights. We know that the situation in Ukraine is not very good.

The representative of France in PACE Dimitri Houbron spoke out against pressure on media in Ukraine

I believe that people must fight to ensure that democracy remains viable.

Related: All MEPs to get acquainted with report on illegal closure of three TV channels in Ukraine

The representative of Germany in PACE Andrej Hunko also expressed concern about the situation with freedom of speech in Ukraine: this is a shift away from democracy

Regarding the situation with the Ukrainian media. I have been observing it critically for many years. Five years ago I organized a conference in the German parliament concerning Ukrainian media. We talked with participants from Ukraine. And I am very worried about the closure of various TV channels now. I am very concerned over the closure of various TV channels now. I am worried about the situation and threats against Anatoliy Shariy, and I stay in touch with him, and the situation with the Ukrainian journalist Ruslan Kotsaba, who was attacked by nationalists. The state of affairs with free media and freedom of speech in Ukraine is worrisome in general, and this is monitored here in PACE, and also in Germany. And current development of the situation is really alarming. This is a shift away from a democratic Ukraine, which I really would like to see as such.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Hungary Péter Szijjártó about closure of Ukrainian media: freedom of expression was one of the most important humanitarian rights

There are no questions here. We, Hungarians fought for freedom in the past for a long time. Human rights are extremely important to us, and freedom of expression is among them. We often hear reprimands from the European Union regarding freedom of the media, but we have not closed any media in our country. Moreover, the major media in Hungary, which are the leading players in the media sector, oppose government policies. And this is a democracy, we have to live with it.

Portugal's representative in PACE Pedro Cegonho commented on pressure on media in Ukraine: freedom of speech is a fundamental right

It is important to ensure that everyone lives in a state with the rule of law, with an effective democracy. Also, freedom of speech is a powerful right that is integral to freedom of the press. And all this is very important for people in Europe. In Portugal, freedom of speech is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution. This is a fundamental right. Therefore, the existence of both public and private media is very important. Only they can guarantee that anyone, with any political position, has the right to speak out and thereby realize democratic principles in relation to all institutions and organizations - both public and private. There is no freedom at all if freedom of speech is not a fundamental constitutional right in the country.

A member of the Portuguese delegation in PACE Paulo Pisco on closure of Ukrainian media: freedom of speech is the essence of democracy

If people are not free to say what they think about a society, there is no freedom in that society. A vital role of journalism is to communicate news freely, even if it is critical. Because democracy is not democracy if different points of view cannot coexist.

Another Italian Senator Gianni Marilotti reacted to the closure of TV channels in Ukraine and called the journalists victims of political pressure

Freedom of speech is extremely important for the United Nations, in particular, so that people are informed and understand what is happening around them. This plays a key role in democracy. Therefore, freedom of speech is something that we must protect everywhere. In Italy, in Ukraine, in the USA. And we work on this every day. This is how we acted during the crisis with Assange, and we will act in the same way in the situation with the closure of Ukrainian TV channels. These are the issues that are fundamental to democracy.

PACE member from the Czech Republic on the closure of media in Ukraine: countries that want to observe democratic principles should not restrict freedom of speech

The leadership of the state, which wants to observe democratic principles, should not restrict freedom of speech in the country. This is a very serious issue for all peoples, for all countries of the world. In the Czech Republic, all this is already in order. But in some countries - not yet. We also need to study the situation in these countries. I think this will happen in the future.

Related: MEPs write letter to Josep Borrell on Ukraine's violation of principles of freedom of speech and laws due to blocking of 112 Ukraine, NewsOne, ZIK TV channels

Italian Senator Roberto Rampi on the closure of independent media in Ukraine: there is no democracy without freedom of speech

There is no such thing as democracy without freedom of speech, without versatile media and people’s opportunity to hear different opinions. I think this is a big problem. We know about the Ukrainian situation. The Assembly adopted a resolution on people's right to be informed. A certain freedom of speech exists. But we continue to work, to improve the situation with it in all countries.

French Senator Didier Marie: the media must be protected, especially when the authorities pressure the media

Freedom of speech is very important for democracy: to have free journalists and free media. Everyone needs to know what other people think. We need journalism that can explain what is happening and we need different points of view. Therefore, it is very important for us that the media are free. One of the fundamental criteria for belonging to Europe and to democracy is free journalism. And it is necessary to protect it from the authorities when the authorities infringe upon it.

German Chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz responded to the appeal of the Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech: freedom of opinion and freedom of the press are fundamental rights that must be protected by the state

There is no justification for deliberately limiting the freedom of action of journalists and media companies, or for attacks, threats and interference with the freedom of the media representatives. Please rest assured that we will continue to monitor the development of the situation with freedom of speech and freedom of the press in Ukraine and in various ways support initiatives to protect the work of journalists and media organizations.

French Senator Nathalie Goulet demanded that the Foreign Minister respond to the sanctions of the Ukrainian authorities against 112 Ukraine, NewsOne, ZiK and other closed media in Ukraine

Ukraine is a neighboring and friendly country with which the European Union maintains close relations within the framework of the Eastern Partnership. It has never been disputed that Ukraine has been subjected to serious territorial aggression and, as such, has a legal right to protection, including through decisions under its sole sovereignty, protecting its national security.

Over the past several months, many media outlets have been closed, without any grounds and without a trial, precisely under the pretext of protecting national security. But the acceleration of the measures taken by the Ukrainian authorities in relation to the leading TV channels and Internet websites: news channels 112 and ZIK, Internet websites Strana.ua and, consequently, attacks on the principles of freedom of speech, in response to this leads us to the need to respond. The opposition leader was placed under house arrest and punished without a judicial trial

Council of Europe Director General of Human Rights and the Rule of Law Christos Giakoumopoulos recommended the journalists of illegally closed Pershiy Nezalezhniy channel to appeal to ECHR over restriction of freedom of speech in Ukraine 

The Council of Europe considers media freedom and freedom of expression an important element of democratic societies and essential to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. We are closely following the developments in Ukraine concerning media freedom. Freedom of expression is enshrined in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. If you consider that the situation you describe in your letter is a breach of Article 10 of the ECHR, you may bring an application before the European Court for Human Rights after fulfilling the procedural admissibility requirements as set out in Article 35 of the ECHR, including the exhaustion of available effective domestic remedies.

Related: Ban of any mass media jeopardizes functioning of free society, disrupts freedom of speech and information, - MEP Scholz

French Senator Goulet: an international commission should be created in PACE to investigate violations of freedom of speech in Ukraine

There is freedom of the press, there are conditions developed here in the national plan, which are associated, say, with emergencies in the state, and we would like to remind first of all that Ukraine must be sovereign and, again, the territorial integrity of Ukraine must be respected. And we have been dealing with these problems for a long time. At our level, we cannot offer a solution - this is not our level, but, again, we can turn to PACE as Ukraine is a PACE member so that an international commission was created to investigate this situation. This is precisely one of the functions of the PACE Assembly - to ensure the observance of democratic standards in the PACE member states. So we did a great job, a parliamentary work

French Senator Guerriau on freedom of speech in Ukraine: bans on spread of information can be established only at the level of the judiciary

Freedom of speech is a fundamental element of democracy. It is important that these issues are discussed from different perspectives. It is the difference in positions at the end that gives the resulting correct direction. And thus, any prohibitions on the spread of information both in the media, in the press, and on the Internet can only be established if all procedures that can be carried out at the level of the judiciary are observed.

PACE General Rapporteur on media freedom and safety of journalists, Member of the Federal Council of Austria Stefan Schennach said that Europe was very concerned about the catastrophic situation with freedom of speech in Ukraine and stressed that the Commissioner for Human Rights will work to ensure that Ukrainian law enforcement agencies end impunity for crimes against journalists. (statement dated September 2, 2021)

Expert at the Research Center for East European Studies at the University of Bremen Eduard Klein on Zelensky's persecution of opposition and Medvedchuk: main political opponent was eliminated under the guise of de-oligarchization

After two years in power, public support for Zelenskiy has weakened, making it increasingly difficult for him to achieve the goals he stated. And another point is Zelensky's substitution of concepts. On one hand, he allegedly launched a fight against the oligarchs in Ukraine, and on the other, "under the guise of deoligarchization, he began to eliminate political opponents. In addition, since taking office, Zelenskiy has made little visible progress on two key campaign issues - the war in Donbas and the fight against corruption - despite little progress.

MEP Maximilian Krah: in Ukraine, we see an increase in repression against those whose opinion differs from that of the authorities 

We have seen a stairway in the wrong direction. The first is the pressure on your channel, the second is the pressure on the Russian language. And now, the final step is that the opposition leader is prosecuted and obviously they want to set him into prison. So, step by step, we see an increase of pressure and repression against those who has another idea of Ukraine than the government has.

London Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR): pressure on media associated with Medvedchuk speaks of critical situation with freedom of speech in Ukraine

Over the past few years, Ukraine's rating in terms of political rights and civil liberties has dropped significantly, and this is primarily due to the blocking of three independent TV channels: 112 Ukraine, NewsOne, and ZIK.

In early 2021, some human rights organizations and the media were criticized in light of the fact that the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine imposed sanctions against the owner of three news channels, which then stopped broadcasting.

MEP from Slovakia Miroslav Radačovský: Ukraine has a lot of challenges, and the authorities should solve them instead of blocking the broadcasting of the "112 Ukraine", ZIK, and NewsOne TV channels

As a Slovak MEP, I am categorically against any media or outlet being blocked by the authorities or by the president. It's just impossible. It is possible to ban the media only when they promote terrorism or murder or something like that. But I am surprised by one thing - as I know, Ukraine has a problem with covid, with the economy, there is a problem in the east of Ukraine. Having such serious problems, why did Mr. Zelensky decide to close media? I don’t understand this. I only understand that this is a political matter. And I am categorically against this... I do not understand why your government and the president are doing this. I am categorically and all MEPs are against banning the media. I speak for Slovakia, we are all rooting for you, we are rooting for Ukraine, rooting for Russia, because we are one Slavic people. And I don't like this, and no one likes that your biggest problem is the TV channel. You have many other problems, not TV channels. Let there be such and such TV channels, opposition, and others.

Related: MEP on pressure on freedom of speech in Ukraine: Most powerful tool for influencing country's leadership is from outside, not from inside

MEP Maximilian Krah said that the Ukrainian government is rapidly moving against fundamental human rights.

Repression has become a trend in Ukraine. We now see the Ukrainian government moving rapidly against fundamental human rights. In particular, it represses Russian-speakers by adopting laws prohibiting the use of any language other than Ukrainian. Even in those regions of Ukraine where no one speaks Ukrainian as their native language. This is a gross violation of human rights, which Ukraine pledged to respect. Therefore, now the Ukrainian government is in a very disastrous position in relation to those people who demand the fulfillment of promises and speak Russian. I am very alarmed by this.

US Department of State Annual Report: Illegal Shutdown of Ukrainian Opposition TV Channels - NewsOne, 112 Ukraine and ZIK - violates human rights

There were reports that the government used formal pretexts to silence the media for "pro-Russian" positions and criticism of its national security policies.

Portuguese MEP Sandra Pereira has submitted an official request to the European Commission demanding to condemn the closure of three independent TV channels

This is not an isolated decision: the Ukrainian authorities resort to countless encroachments on rights and freedoms, including bans and acts of persecution and aggression against political, trade union and public organizations, communities, and citizens (one example is the case against the Communist Party of Ukraine).

Reporters Without Borders: Zelensky attacks freedom of speech and introduces harsh censorship in an attempt to harm Medvedchuk

According to the international non-governmental organization, Zelensky's desire to fight propaganda is not an excuse for his sanctions against the opposition, as a result of which the independent TV channels 112 Ukraine, NewsOne, ZIK, and Pershiy Nezalezhniy, as well as the journalists who worked in these media.

We express our regret in connection with such an escalation of the information war. While the desire to fight propaganda is legitimate, this is not an excuse to use censorship, and the ban on TV channels could provoke new attacks on journalists. This violation of freedom of speech is contrary to Ukraine's international obligations. Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to look for other ways to protect the independence and pluralism of the press.

Director of the Center for Press, Information and Society at the Central European University in Budapest, Marius Dragomir, criticized the closure of opposition channels as violating media freedom

Decisions to punish media outlets, if there are legal grounds for doing so, should be made in accordance with legal and regulatory procedures. I'm not entirely sure what kind of procedure is envisaged in Ukraine, but I suspect that regulators have been tasked with monitoring broadcasters' programs to ensure that they do not violate any legal provisions. What President Zelensky has done is a violation of such a procedure. Moreover, the revocation of broadcast licenses or permits for media outlets is the most severe type of sanction imposed on media outlets. Typically, in democracies where independent media regulation exists, regulators are required to collect sufficient evidence that the broadcaster has violated the law or endangered national security before resorting to such extreme sanctions. And, before making a final decision to revoke their license, such authorities must first warn the broadcaster to correct the situation. Before a regulator decides to revoke a broadcasting license, a series of warnings and other forms of sanctions (fines, etc.) are required. This was not done in Ukraine in the situation with the president's decision.

Waldemar Herdt, Speaker of the Inter-Parliamentary Commission on Human Rights of the "Alternative for Germany" faction in the Bundestag: the decision to close the channels is unprecedented and will have significant consequences

With great alarm and misunderstanding, we learned the news that by the decree of the President of Ukraine Zelensky... three TV channels broadcasting in Russian were simultaneously closed... without any adequate and obvious reasons. These TV channels were accused without trial of pro-Russian propaganda and distortion of facts regarding the political situation in Ukraine... It is difficult to disagree that this decision is unprecedented and will have significant consequences for both freedom of speech and resonance in international politics regarding Ukraine.

Council of Europe expresses concern over the closure of three opposition TV channels in Ukraine

The Council of Europe is concerned about this step by the authorities and notes that the criteria for banning broadcasting should be clearly defined in the law. This will help prevent any interference with free speech, the statement said.

Member of the Bundestag of the Federal Republic of Germany Waldemar Herdt said that the policy of the current authorities of Ukraine in relation to its citizens, the media, and business resembles the policy in Hitler's Germany

The closure of channels on their territory, the imposition of unprecedented sanctions against the citizens of Ukraine, the squeezing of business - like what the Nazis did in the 30s in Germany with those unwanted.

Related: MEP Krah: European Parliament demonstrates cynicism, double standards, ignoring Ukrainian authorities' repression against Medvedchuk

MEPs Kateřina Konečná, Mick Wallace and Clare Daly wrote a letter to the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, in which they drew the European official's attention to the situation that is developing in Ukraine in connection with the decision of President Volodymyr Zelensky to close three opposition TV channels out of court

The presidential office does not have the authority to regulate the work of the media (this is the responsibility of the State Committee of Ukraine on Television and Radio Broadcasting). Thus, the revocation of broadcasting licenses by presidential decree (against which there is no possibility of an appeal in court) is not only an act of politically-motivated state censorship but also a clear violation of the rule of law in Ukraine.

MEP Helmut Scholz: banning any media threatens the functioning of a free society and undermines freedom of speech and information

Freedom of the media is an essential component of the right to freedom of expression and information. It is necessary for the functioning of a democratic state and is provided for by international agreements. All 27 EU member states, including Ukraine, have signed and ratified relevant international commitments. These rights are not subject to restriction under any circumstances - except for the presence of special grounds and the decision of the Constitutional Court. In the event of any prohibition, the underlying evidence and reasons for the decision must be open and transparent. In the case of the ban on Ukrainian news channels, Zelensky undermined the credibility of democracy and damaged democratic dialogue. In my opinion, the three affected TV channels should have the right and the opportunity to officially challenge the decision in an independent court, since their activities are absolutely transparent in relation to funding sources, and the obligation to provide objective information to the Ukrainian society is enshrined at the statutory level. Banning any media threatens the functioning of a free society and undermines freedom of speech and information.

Related: German MEP claims double standards in Europe in terms of persecutions of opposition in Ukraine

MEP Maximilian Krah: European Parliament will not make concessions to Ukraine for as long as they oppress freedom of speech in the country

President Zelensky, freedom is always freedom of those who live up to other views. Your repression of news just because they dismiss your actions is incompatible with standards of democracy. There will be no concessions to Ukraine for as long as you oppress free media!

Head of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine Serhiy Tomilenko: Shutting down three TV channels is the government’s attack on freedom of speech

Ukrainian journalists, media managers and media owners have their right for freedom of speech and the right to work. And they are responsible for their action. But this responsibility lies within the legal frameworks. Cutting many millions of viewers off the access to Ukrainian media, banning hundreds of journalists and media people for their job is an attack on freedom of speech. Political orientation of Ukrainian owners of media registered in Ukraine does not make a crime.

Federations of journalists of Europe and around the world condemned the ban of three opposition TV channels in Ukraine

International and European Federations of Journalists called the decision of President Volodymyr Zelensky a “beyond-the-court and politically motivated ban and an outrageous attack on freedom of speech, which should be canceled immediately”. According to critics, the ban of the government left some 1,500 people employed on TV channels at possible risk of losing their jobs.

Member of Italian Senate Roberto Rampi: Ukrainian government must realize that blocking the 112 Ukraine, NewsOne and ZIK channels is a wrong and very dangerous path

When I first heard this news, I was quite surprised. I don’t believe that a country can shut down any kind of information system, a TV channel, a newspaper or an Internet channel, or something else. One definitely can’t close everything, and one should npot be doing so without careful legal investigation. Pluralism of points of view is the anchorage of democracy. Very critical, and maybe dangerous or unacceptable things may be heard here… So the opportunity to express one’s point of view is a fundamental thing for democracy.

French Politician, MEP Nicolas Bay: President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky crossed the line of a democratic regime when he personally made the decision to close three opposition TV channels – NewsOne, 112 Ukraine and ZIK

You always get worried when you see that censorship is applied to media in the democratic state. Especially, when a head of the state does so on a unilateral basis. President Zelensky took a lot of responsibility, making the decision to ban the work of main opposition TV channels at his own will. It actually defines the border between the democratic regime when everyone has an opportunity to express their own opinion, and the authoritarian one. It is definitely a shift of the course. I do not interfere with political life of Ukraine because I’m a European parliamentarian. But I’m worried and I’m saying someone is trying to shut someone else’s mouth, make them silent, keeping the opposition from expressing their thoughts. While Mr. Medvedchuk and those who support him express the position of unification and reconciliation of Ukrainians, rejecting the attempts to manipulate with Ukraine on the international arena, some would like to see Ukraine oppose Russia all the time – though it’s not in the interests of Ukraine, Russia and, of course, European countries. It looks like the one who are now censored actually stay committed to the reasoned and well-adjusted stance on Ukraine’s political arena.

Oliver Varhelyi, the EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and EU Englargement claims that fight against misinformation cannot be done at the cost of media freedom

Yes, I’m aware of the ban of three TV channels. I totally agree with the statement of Josep Borrell: the fight against false information cannot be taking place at the cost of media freedom. This is why I’m going to bring up this issue in the conversation with Prime Minister who is going to visit Brussels next week, or in the conversation with the Council of the Association.

Head of the Association of Independent media of the Czech Republic, publicist Stanislav Novotny compared President Zelensky’s decision of blocking several TV channels of Ukraine to “a knife of a butcher that murders freedom of speech”. The same freedom of speech that makes the basis of democracy and successful functioning of the state. The freedom of speech, which all signatories of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights vowed to stay loyal to once.

International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemned Zelensky’s decision to close 112 Ukraine, NewsOne and ZiK TV channels

The organization described this act as a extracurial and politically motivated ban, and an open attack on freedom of the press, urging the Ukrainian government to cancel the ban immediately, respecting the right for freedom of speech and expression of opinion.

Secretary General of the IFJ Anthony Bellanger added that the closure was uncalled for, marking that the action was unacceptable in conditions of democracy. He also said it put hundreds of jobs in danger.

German MEP Bernhard Zimniok: blocking TV channels that showed the stories disliked by political decision makers is an unacceptable interference with freedom of speech

Recently, president Zelensky blocked the broadcasting of three TV channels that allegedly spread pro-Russian propaganda. Blocking the TV channels that showed the stories disliked by political decision makers is an unacceptable interference with freedom of speech.

European Parliament resolution: Ukraine should cease politically motivated persecutions of the media

The European Parliament passed the resolution on Ukraine fulfilling provisions of the Association Agreement. In it, European lawmakers express extreme disapproval of political prosecution of independent media in our country. Besides, the MEPs are upset about the draft law about countering the spread of false information, believing that this way, the government could get extra tools for interference in the work of journalists. Besides, the European parliament urged the Ukrainian government to apply all efforts to look into multiple facts of attacks on reporters during the last few years.

MEP, member of Bundestag Robbie Schlund: Closure of 112 Ukraine, NewsOne and ZIK TV channels is a direct violation of the Constitution and the laws of Ukraine

Bundestag is shocked with the decision of president Volodymyr Zelensky to close 112 Ukraine, NewsOne and ZIK TV channels. This decree deals damage to democratic processes in the country.

Jessica Ni Mhainin, Policy Research and Advocacy Officer, Index on Censorship: Actions of Ukrainian government that closed three opposition TV channels contradict the state’s commitments and the European Convention for Human Rights

Index on Censorship is extremely concerned about the decision of president Volodymyr Zelensky to introduce sanctions against 112 Ukraine, NewsOne and ZIK TV channels. The Ukrainian government is obliged to live up to the European Convention for Human Rights, which points out that all sorts of restrictions or sanctions related to freedom of expression should be defined by the law.  At the same time, president Zelensky's actions seem extracurial and politically motivated. The lack of official reasoning of the ban raises more concerns because such decision must be up to a wide public investigation and discussion.

German MEP Dietmar Kester: President Zelensky’s decision to ban media beyond the court’s authority is a breach of procedural norms and freedom of speech

The ban of these media, which puts the work of reporters in danger and limits the access to media for major part of the population, is unacceptable. Ignoring the due legal procedure, judiciary system and major rights are never acceptable in democracy. Without official procedure and respective court hearings, the ban of news sources (especially these related to political opposition) can never be justified in the democratic system. The ban of media is an extreme measure that must be applied only under extraordinary circumstances and with special regard to democratic processes – but not based on the president’s decrees.

MEP Mikuláš Peksa: If Ukraine intends to continue the process of European integration, it should live up to the European standards of freedom of speech

The supervision of media market should always stay away from the politics. The independent authority, not the ruling politicians, should make all respective decisions.

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