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Reporters of illegally closed media told international community about Zelensky's plans to clean up independent media and introduce total censorship in Ukraine

Source : 112 Ukraine

Journalists note that under the guise of fighting fakes, many independent media outlets, which are not afraid of telling the truth about what is happening in Ukraine, may come under attack and threat of a total ban
13:59, 29 November 2021

Journalists of the Ukrainian media rally
112 Agency

Journalists of the illegally closed by Zelensky’s criminal regime TV channels 112 Ukraine, NEWSONE, ZIK, Pershiy Nezalezhniy and online agencies Strana.ua and Shary.net warned the world community about the plans of the President of Ukraine to clean up independent media and introduce total censorship in the country.

Media representatives sent letters to the President of Freedom House Michael Abramowitz, diplomatic missions of the world countries in Ukraine, in particular, ambassadors of the G7 countries, leaders of international organizations dealing with freedom of speech and development of democratic values in the world, governing bodies of the EU, PACE, European Commission, representatives of national legislatures and world political leaders.  

Journalists note that under the guise of fighting fakes, many independent media outlets, which are not afraid of telling the truth about what is happening in Ukraine, may come under attack and threat of a total ban.

Here is the full text of the letter:

Journalists of the Ukrainian media take this opportunity to express their respect and once again draw your attention to the intensification of extremely disturbing trends in Ukraine indicating the clear intentions of the Ukrainian authorities to establish a regime that has all the hallmarks of a dictatorship.

We consider it absolutely obvious that the Ukrainian authorities, led by President Volodymyr Zelensky, have launched a systematic struggle against independent media and opposition politicians. The authorities see the desired result of this fight in the total censorship and elimination of the mass media which allow themselves to criticize the President's activity as well as in limiting any dissent and depriving any politicians and experts who don’t afraid to have and publicly express an opinion that does not coincide with the opinion of the authorities.

We consider the increased pressure on the mass media and opposition politicians to be a direct consequence of three factors: the decrease of Volodymyr Zelenski's personal rating and is fear of losing the next presidential election, the desire to distract the attention of Ukrainian citizens from the daily evidence of the current authorities' unprofessionalism, and the president's desire to most effectively fulfill the order of Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoysky (among others, the recently published book "American Kleptocracy” by well-known American investigative journalist Casey Michel and investigations on the basis of “Pandora papers” shed enough light on business relations between Kolomoysky and Zelensky).

Let us turn to specific examples.

In February this year, in grave breach of basic principles of rule of law, extrajudicially (by the decision of the National Security and Defense Council, while deprivation of media licenses is possible by court decision only) the Ukrainian authorities banned the broadcasting of three leading news channels – “112 Ukraine,” “NewsOne,” and “ZIK.” By the ordinary letter of the Deputy Head of the Security Service of Ukraine and again without trial, the authorities illegally stopped the broadcasting of “Pershiy Nezalezhniy” TV channel, which united the journalists of three closed channels, an hour after the broadcast began.

The Ukrainian public broadcaster - "UA:Pershiy" TV channel - accused the Office of the President of Ukraine of "long and strict control over the presence of the deputies from "Servant of the People" party in its programs", and in addition of "imposing conditions on the TV channel editors" and "putting ultimatums on the presence of the people's deputies".

Former employees of the state TV channel "DOM" told about censorship by the Office of the President of Ukraine, which demanded to maximize the amount of positive news about the president, to engage in PR of his initiatives, and to refuse to use certain words and expressions in the preparation of news.

The list of media outlets that suffered from the current authorities could include Radio Liberty, but significant public resonance compelled the authorities refrain from the backing of the head of the Board of Directors of Ukreximbank Yevgen Metsger and his associates, who attacked the filming crew of the investigative program "Schemes".

Deputies from the pro-presidential political force refused to attend broadcasts on the television channels Ukraine and Ukraine 24 immediately after a prominent opinion leader harshly criticized the activities of Volodymyr Zelensky.

There are known cases of pressure on the TV channels "Pryamiy" and "Nash", and also through the illegal introduction of sanctions, the authorities stopped the work and threatened with complete destruction of a number of popular Internet media, in particular "Strana.ua" and "Shariy.net".

At the press-conference marking the equator of Zelensky's presidency only those media loyal to the president were invited, which has never happened before, but even that did not keep Zelensky out of a series of very painful questions about the establishment of peace in Ukraine, the economic policy of the government and major scandals where he’s allegedly participating (Pandora papers, Wagnergate).

Of equal concern are provocations by right-wing radical forces, including physical reprisals by such groups against journalists undesirable to the authorities, who are persecuted for their "wrong" political views. Cases of political settling of scores with opposition politicians have also increased, the most notorious of which is the house arrest of the head of the political council of the "Opposition Platform - For Life" party Victor Medvedchuk, whose lawyers have repeatedly beaten all the arguments of the prosecution, but so far cannot obtain his release and the dropping of all the charges.

Another big reason to send this letter was the plan for an all-out cleansing of the information space, planned by the Ukrainian authorities led by Volodymyr Zelensky for early spring next year, which has become known to us. Under the guise of the fight against fakes, many independent media outlets that are not afraid to tell the truth about what is happening in Ukraine may find themselves in danger of being completely banned.

Considering the abovementioned facts, we're asking you to add your voice to those politicians and international organizations that have already condemned the pressure on freedom of speech in Ukraine, to express publicly your opinion about the importance of ensuring fundamental democratic values, among which freedom of speech, freedom of expression and journalists' right to work professionally are of main importance to us, and to raise the issue of pressure on the media and opposition politicians in Ukraine during your contacts with the Ukrainian authorities.

Sincerely,

Work collectives of illegally closed Ukrainian media

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 almost 115,000 materials on the persecution of the opposition and independent TV channels by the Ukrainian authorities.

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