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Journalists of media illegally closed by Zelensky urge European Parliament President, EP committees chairmen to respond to freedom of speech restrictions in Ukraine

Source : 112 Ukraine

On Tuesday, October 19, Ukrainian journalists will hold meetings in Strasbourg to discuss government's illegal actions against independent media workers
17:53, 18 October 2021

Journalists of illegally closed by Zelensky media
Open source

Journalists from 112 Ukraina, Newsone, ZIK, Pershiy Nezalezhniy, as well as Strana.ua and Shariy.net, which were illegally closed by the Ukrainian authorities, sent an open letter to European politicians asking them to pay attention to the situation with freedom of speech in еру country and influence the government.

The letter was sent to President of the European Parliament David Sassoli, Chair of the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs David McAllister, Chair of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Juan Fernando López Aguilar and others.

In addition, on Tuesday, October 19, Ukrainian journalists will hold a number of meetings in Strasbourg to discuss the government's illegal actions against independent media workers who show a different point of view.

Tomorrow, the journalists will meet with:

  • MEP Marc Tarabella,
  • EP Vice-President, Member of the Subcommittee on Human Rights Heidi Hautala,
  • MEP, Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Subcommittee on Human Rights Maximilian Krah,
  • MEP, Member of Committee on Foreign Affairs Miroslav Radačovský,
  • Head of the Division for Cooperation on Freedom of Expression, Information Society Department, Directorate General Human Rights and Rule of Law of the Council of Europe Ardita Abdiu,
  • Head of the Information Society Department of the Council of Europe Patrick Penninckx,
  • Head of Council of Europe Project “Strengthening freedom of media, access to information and reinforcing public broadcasting system in Ukraine” Shahin Abbasov.

The program "International Panorama with Nadia Sass" on Pershiy Nezalezniy TV channel will also be dedicated to the events.

The text of the letter:

Your Excellency,

Journalists of the illegally closed Ukrainian media take this opportunity to express their respect and turn your attention to the catastrophic situation in Ukraine in terms of securing fundamental democratic values, first and foremost - freedom of speech and the right of journalists to perform their professional duties.

We, like thousands of our fellow citizens, were waiting for the start of the EU-Ukraine Summit in order to tell foreign guests about the threats that endanger the Ukrainian society today because of the unprofessionalism of the authorities. Unfortunately, today we have received yet another proof that the official authorities see the disloyal media as their main enemy, and instead of working to reduce corruption, improve the well-being of the citizens and establish peace in Donbas they opt for further and final establishing of a dictatorship in Ukraine.

In particular, today the authorities cynically demolished the billboards appealing to the guests of the Ukraine-EU Summit to raise the issue of freedom of speech in Ukraine during the meetings with representatives of the Ukrainian side. These boards remained in place for less than a week. Even though the boards did not contain any insults or criticisms of the authorities, the authorities still considered their appearance as an unwelcome and dangerous manifestation of dissent:

In addition, journalists of our media were denied accreditation for any of the events within the framework of the EU-Ukraine Summit. While the action of journalists in support of freedom of speech was almost shut down by law enforcement bodies.

We regard today's events as yet another attempt by the Ukrainian authorities to suppress any alternative point of view on the situation in Ukraine and once again to use the repressive machine to fight against independent media.

Let me remind you that the leading news TV channels 112 Ukraine, NewsOne, and ZIK have already suffered for their courage to speak the truth about the activities of the Ukrainian government and have been closed down extrajudicially through a decision of the National Security and Defense Council, although a media license can only be revoked by a court decision. Then it was the turn of the television channel “First Independent”, which was closed down due to a simple letter from the deputy head of the Security Service of Ukraine, and again without a court. The well-known Internet media Strana.ua and Shariy.net, as well as a number of other media outlets, were also under the threat of complete destruction.

And recently this list could almost include the well-known Radio Freedom, and only a significant public resonance forced the authorities to stop protecting the Chairman of the Board of Ukreximbank Yevhen Metsger and his employees, who attacked the crew of the investigation TV program "Schemes".

We note with alarm that if this lawlessness of the authorities is not stopped now, Ukraine is threatened with the curtailment of basic democratic freedoms in the near future. Corruption and cronyism in authorities will set Ukraine back dozens of years. We do not have the moral right to allow journalists in Ukraine to risk their own health and jobs for asking questions like those about the President's offshore deals or cases of corruption in the government.

We hope that the influence and attention of Ukraine's international partners will lead the Ukrainian authorities to stop putting pressure on disloyal media and guarantee freedom o speech to citizens and the right for journalists to perform their professional duties.

Taking into account these facts, we ask you to publicly respond to the situation with freedom of speech in Ukraine, express your position regarding the illegal closure of Ukrainian media, and initiate discussion of this issue during your subsequent contacts with representatives of Ukrainian authorities. We hope that this position will find your full understanding.

Sincerely,

Collectives of illegally closed Ukrainian media

Earlier, journalists of independent Ukrainian media 112 Ukraine, Newsone, ZIK, Pershiy Nezalezhniy, as well as Strana.ua and Shariy.net ahead of EU-Ukraine summit wrote open letter to ambassadors of Europe, US, Canada and Asia.

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 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.

The journalists of the illegally closed TV channels met with 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 senators were informed 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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