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Journalists of illegally closed by authorities media write open letter to ambassadors of Europe, US, Canada and Asia urging to pay attention to restriction of freedom of speech in Ukraine

Source : 112 Ukraine

The reporters ask the officials to publicly respond to the situation around the illegal closure of media outlets in Ukraine
20:02, 6 October 2021

112 Ukraine, ZiK, NewsONE TV channels
Open source

Journalists of the illegally closed media, 112 Ukraine, NewsOne, ZIK, Pershiy Nezalezhniy, Strana.ua and Shariy.net, wrote an open letter to the ambassadors of the countries of Europe, North America and Asia.

Among others, a letter was sent to the Charge d'Affaires a.i. of the United States in Ukraine Kristina Kvien, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to Ukraine Takashi Kurai, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Germany to Ukraine Anka Feldguzen, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United Kingdom to Ukraine Melinda Simmons, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of France to Ukraine Etienne de Ponsen, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Canada to Ukraine Roman Waschuk, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Poland to Ukraine Bartosz Cichocki, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People's Republic of China to Ukraine Fan Xianrong.

In their letter, journalists drew attention to the fact that the current government sees disloyal media as the main enemy on the way to the final establishment of the dictatorship in Ukraine, which results in complete impunity for those close to the country's leadership and personally to the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky.

Full text of the appeal:

Your Excellency, 

Journalists of the illegally closed Ukrainian media express their respects to you and take this opportunity to draw your attention to the catastrophic situation with fundamental democratic values in Ukraine, among which freedom of speech, freedom of expression and the right of journalists to perform their professional duties are of particular importance to us.

Today, we have once again received proof that the current government sees disloyal media as the main enemy on the way to the final establishment of a dictatorship in Ukraine, resulting in complete impunity for those close to the country's leadership and personally to President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Yesterday, the leading news TV channels 112 Ukraine, NewsOne and ZIK, closed extrajudicially due to the decision of the National Security and Defense Council (although deprivation of media licenses is possible only by court decision), suffered for their courage for telling the truth about the government's activities. Then came the turn of Pershiy Nezalezhniy, closed by the ordinary letter of the Deputy Chairman of the SBU and again without a trial, and Strana.ua and Shariy.net online agencies.

Today, Radio Svoboda almost got on this list, and only a significant public response forced the authorities to stop covering for Ukreximbank Chairman Yevhen Metzger and his staff, who attacked the film crew of Schemes program.

We have to state that President Volodymyr Zelensky and representatives of the Office of the President of Ukraine have forgotten about the existence of Article 8 of the Law of Ukraine On Protection of Professional Activities of Journalists in Ukraine, which clearly stipulates: intentional obstruction of legal professional activity and harassment of journalists is grounds for criminal prosecution.

So far, we do not see any case of obstruction of journalists' activity being taken to court. We are sure that during Zelensky's tenure as president, the case with the film crew of Schemes program will also not be investigated. The reason is obvious and it lies in the personal connections of the Chairman of the Board of Ukreximbank with President Zelensky.

We emphasize with concern that if this arbitrariness of authorities is not stopped now, Ukraine will be threatened with the curtailment of basic democratic freedoms in the near future. Corruption and nepotism among authorities will push Ukraine back for decades. We simply do not have the moral right to allow journalists in Ukraine to risk their own health and work for asking questions about the president's offshore deals or cases of corruption in the government.

We have high hopes that the influence and attention of Ukraine's international partners will make the Ukrainian authorities stop the pressure on disloyal media and guarantee freedom of speech to citizens and the right to perform professional duties for journalists. We are glad that the closure of opposition TV channels has already been condemned by leading international organizations, well-known politicians and independent experts. In particular, news about the closure of TV channels was published in all leading world media, and only for the last month the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Monitoring Mission for Human Rights, PACE Rapporteur on Media Freedom and Protection of Journalists and Freedom House and others criticized the actions of the Ukrainian authorities.

Taking into account these facts, we ask you to publicly respond to the situation with freedom of speech in Ukraine and express your position on attacks on journalists and illegal closure of Ukrainian media, and also initiate discussions of this issue during your upcoming contacts with representatives of the Ukrainian authorities. We hope that this position will find understanding on your part.

Sincerely,

Teams of illegally closed Ukrainian media

Earlier, on October 27 -30, 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 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.

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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