Freedom of speech is the foundation of democracy and the foundation on which Europe stands. And those who restrict freedom of speech are opposed to the fundamental foundations of the European community. This was stated by the MEP from Poland Robert Bedron, answering the question of the UkrLive journalist regarding the illegal closure of 112 Ukraine, NEWSONE, ZIK, Pershiy Nezalezhniy TV channels, and Internet agencies Strana.ua and Shariy.net by the Ukrainian authorities
He noted that the European community must make every effort to protect freedom of speech.
"This is an integral part of democracy. There would be no democracy without freedom of speech. So, if someone restricts freedom of speech, - they are against democracy - the foundation on which our entire continent stands. Therefore, we must defend it. Setting limits for freedom of speech also means the desire to hide something, and desire to be an anti-democrat. This position is against the rule of law and human rights. You are now in the house of democracy, in the heart of Europe, and we understand this very well here. I came from Poland, and I remember how hard we fought for freedom, including the freedom of speech. So, we know well how it is when it is not there. And democracy is like a fish - it needs freedom of speech to breathe," the MEP stressed.
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 Nezalezhniy, 112 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 114,853 materials on the persecution of the opposition and independent TV channels by the Ukrainian authorities.