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Journalists at hearings of National Union of Journalists spoke about government's pressure on freedom of speech and presented conclusions of international lawyers on illegal closure of TV channels by Zelensky

Source : 112 Ukraine

The hearings of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine took place on November 2
12:32, 2 November 2021

Journalists of the Ukrainian media rally
112 Agency

On Tuesday, November 2, the annual hearings took place at the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine. The main topic of the event was the issues of protecting the rights of journalists, combating impunity and physical aggression against media workers.

This year, the hearings were held in an online format and workers of the Ukrainian TV channels 112 Ukraine, NEWSONE, ZIK, Pershiy Nezalezhniy, and of the Internet agencies Strana.ua and Shariy net, which were illegally closed by Zelensky, took part in it.

The organizers of the event invited as speakers the leadership of the National Union of Journalists, representatives of the leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the National Police of Ukraine, Office of the Prosecutor General, and lawyers.  

During the hearings, the journalists pointed to the pressure of the authorities on journalists, the curtailment of freedom of speech in Ukraine due to the inability of media workers to fully and without restrictions fulfill their duties. The pressure and threats of physical violence from right-wing organizations, to which the authorities do not respond and fail to ensure the safety of journalists, also play an important role.

In addition, workers of the closed 112 Ukraine, NEWSONE, ZIK, Pershiy Nezalezhniy TV channels told the participants of the hearings about the activities and current situation at the closed media.

In addition, an international legal report on the closure of television channels out of court, the conclusions of which were previously voiced by a French lawyer and teacher of communication law at Celsa, Alexis Guedj, were presented to the participants of the hearings.

The lawyers concluded that by closing the TV channels, the Ukrainian authorities grossly violated not only Ukrainian legislation, but also a number of international legal documents, in particular the European Convention on Human Rights (Articles 1, 6, 10, 14).

In this regard, the lawyers recommended that the workers of the closed media, whose rights are grossly violated by the Ukrainian authorities, to apply to the European Court of Human Rights. And also, in addition, inform international journalistic organizations about cases of violation of freedom of speech in Ukraine and sanctions of the Ukrainian authorities against TV channels.

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.

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.

On October 12, the employees of independent Ukrainian media 112 Ukraine, NewsOne, ZIK, Pershiy Nezalezhniy, on the day of the EU-Ukraine summit held a large-scale rally to draw the attention of the guests of EU-Ukraine summit to the violation of freedom of speech in Ukraine.

Dozens of journalists at one of the locations - Boryspil highway, where the summit participants were leaving the airport, unfurled posters with inscriptions in Ukrainian and English: Pershiy Nezalezhniy112 Ukraine, NewsOne, ZIK, illegally closed by the authorities. Zelensky destroys freedom of speech in Ukraine. The journalists' mouths were sealed. Dozens of media workers were also present in Mariinsky Park and other locations which the guests were due to visit.

The media, covering the G20 summit in Rome, expressed concern about the situation with censorship in Ukraine and supported the illegally closed 112 Ukraine, NEWSONE, ZIK, Pershiy Nezalezhniy TV channels and the Internet outlets Strana.ua and Shariy.net.

On November 1, the journalists of illegally closed  112 Ukraine, NEWSONE, ZIK, Pershiy Nezalezhniy TV channels and the Internet outlets Strana.ua and Shariy.net also held a meeting with the representative of the German embassy Lucas Behm. During the meeting, media representatives informed about the pressure of the Ukrainian authorities on freedom of speech in the country, and also provided an international legal opinion of a group of French lawyers provided upon the appeal of the Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech on the illegality of closure of Ukrainian TV channels Pershiy Nezalezhniy (First Independent), 112 Ukraine, ZIK and NewsOne.

Over the past four months, the world media, European politicians, and experts have published more than 115,000 materials on the persecution of the opposition and independent TV channels by the Ukrainian authorities.

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