Journalists of the 112 Ukraine, NewsOne and ZIK TV channels, which were closed by the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, requested a meeting with the President of the European Council Charles Michel.
Here is the full text of the letter:
To His Excellency Charles Michel,
the President of the European Council
Journalists of three Ukrainian TV channels “112 Ukraine”, “NewsOne” and “Zik” take this opportunity to express their honor and address you with a kind request of having a meeting during your visit to Ukraine to discuss the illegal shutting of the channels by Ukrainian authorities.
In grave breach of basic principles of rule of law, the Ukrainian authorities have banned the broadcasting of these three leading TV stations – the decision that has got increasingly sound condemnation on the part of respected international human rights watchdogs. Thus, we will be honored to meet you in order to convey our concerns over the blatant attack on the freedom of press in Ukraine.
We believe that your meeting with the affected journalists would demonstrate the consistency of the EU’s support for the protection of human rights and freedoms.
In case this meeting is not possible due to the tight schedule of your visit to Ukraine, we kindly ask for your response and consent to initiate the discussion of this matter during the forthcoming meetings of the European Council.
In brief, details of the channels’ closure can be described as follows:
In early February, three Ukrainian TV channels – “112 Ukraine”, “NewsOne”, and “ZiK” – were shut without any legal background. At the whim of President Zelensky's Office, almost 1,500 journalists were kicked out on the street. However, we did not give up and created a new TV channel – “Pershiy Nezalezhniy” (“The First Independent”), which united the staff of “112 Ukraine”, “NewsOne”, and “ZiK”.
On February 26, the newly established TV channel launched its broadcasting, however, an hour later and under the pressure from the authorities Ukrainian telecomm providers were compelled to stop he satellite broadcasting of the channel, even despite the previously agreed arrangements. “Pershiy Nezalezhniy” did not survive a day, and we were denied our right to work and lost the access to our audience.
Ukrainian authorities have gone far beyond all reasonable bounds by violating legislation and international norms, and continue to purposefully destroy freedom of speech in the country. However, fighting the authorities is not our goal. We, as journalists, just want to continue our job and convey the truth about what is happening in the country and beyond its boundaries. However, this legitimate right has been denied.
Thus, we urge you to respond to the present situation and to express your position.
The staff of “Pershiy Nezalezhniy” TV channel
In their turn, journalists, speaking during the rally against the illegal closure of TV channels 112 Ukraine, NewsOne, ZIK and Pershiy Nezaleznhiy under the EU Delegation to Ukraine expressed hope that they will be heard by the European community.
TV presenter Diana Panchenko reminded that many people supported the Maidan in hope that there would be European values in Ukraine.
According to Panchenko, a lot of people cherished hopes that European values would finally prevail in Ukraine. "But eventually, we see what kind of European values prevailed in the end. Freedom of speech just turned into silly words, which mean nothing, when channels can be closed just like that - not even with an unsanctioned decision, just "by a phone call" - the way it happened with Pershiy Nezaleznhiy, which was on air only for one hour," the presenter said.
Another TV presenter, Rostyslav Sukhachov expressed hope that the EU stance in this regard will be made public.
"We believe that rule of law and freedom of speech must prevail in Ukraine. We hope that the representatives of the EU would demostrate something diffferent than double standards; that they would demonstrate that they protect any freedom of speech, if it is in line with the current legal framework", Sukhachov said.
The TV presenter is convinced that if there is a reaction from the EU, the Ukrainian authorities will begin to adhere too law and order.
Host Yulia Koltak stated that earlier the Ukrainian authorities reacted to the remarks of the European Union. She expressed the hope that it would be so now.
"We hope that the European authorities, in particular, the President of the European Council will respond to this. We also hope that he will convey it all to our Ukrainian government. But there is less hope now. As for freedom of speech in Ukraine, the most dangerous thing now is that by its illegal actions, closing the channels without proceedings and investigation, accusations of journalists in terrorism , the Ukrainian government has just given the green light to right-wing radical activists who sometimes threaten journalists, employees of our work collectives. This is unacceptable," Julia Koltak said, adding that journalists hope for an EU response to the actions of the radical forces.