The billboards with an appeal to the EU-Ukraine summit participants from journalists of illegally closed media - 112 Ukraine, ZIK, NewsOne and Pershiy Nezalezhniy, Strana.ua and Shariy.net - with a demand to protect freedom of speech are being ripped off and destroyed in Kyiv. Regarding these incidents, journalists of illegally closed media wrote appeals to the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain Jose Manuel Albares, EU High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the Vice-President of the European Commission Josep Borrell Fontelles, U.S. Chargé d'Affaires, ai Kristina Kvien, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic Ivan Korčok.
In the letter, journalists ask European partners to publicly respond to the situation with freedom of speech in Ukraine, to express their position on the illegal closure of Ukrainian media, and to initiate discussions on this issue during future contacts with Ukrainian authorities.
Read the full text below:
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,” the appeal reads.
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.
Earlier, on October 11, billboards with the address to guests of the EU-Ukraine summit which started in Kyiv were installed in the Ukrainian capital.
On billboards located along the route to the summit, journalists from illegally closed media are urging participants to raise the issue of threats to freedom of speech in Ukraine and to draw the attention of international partners to blatant violations of journalists' rights in Ukraine.
Earlier, 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.
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.
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.