The closure of opposition TV channels 112 Ukraine, NewsOne and ZIK by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky provoked an extremely negative reaction in the European Parliament. MEPs from different countries sharply criticized this decision of the head of state. According to them, by taking such a step, Zelensky undermined the foundations of democracy.
According to MEP Helmut Scholz, ban of any mass media jeopardizes the functioning of a free society and disrupts freedom of speech and information.
“Freedom of mass media is one of the most important components of freedom of expression and information. It is necessary for the democratic functioning of the state and it is provided by the international agreements. All 27 countries-members of the EU, as well as Ukraine, signed and ratified proper international commitments. These rights can be limited in no circumstances, excluding the presence of special grounds and the decision of the Constitutional Court. In case of any ban, the main grounds and reasons for the particular decision should be open and transparent. In the case of the ban on Ukrainian news TV channels, Zelensky undermines confidence in democracy and inflicted harm to the democratic dialogue. in my opinion, three suffered TV channels should have a right and possibility to officially oppose the decision at the independent court as their activity is absolutely transparent toward the sources of finance and it is enshrined on a statutory level that it is obliged to provide objective information to the Ukrainian society. The ban of any mass media jeopardizes the functioning of a free society and disrupts freedom of speech and information,” he noted.
The MEP also underlined that he supported the International Federation of Journalists that condemned such actions – they remind that it is the politically-motivated attack on freedom of speech.
His colleague, Mikuláš Peksa said that if Ukraine intends to continue the process of European integration, it must adhere to European standards of freedom of speech.
"Supervision of the media market should always be apolitical. All relevant decisions should be made by an independent body, not by ruling politicians," said Peksa.
The MEP acknowledged that the right to freedom of speech could compete with some other rights. Nevertheless, in any case, decisions should not be made by politicians.
"For example, the media sometimes have to publish an apology after a court's ruling. Nonetheless, the decision to apply corrective mechanisms should always be made by an independent supervisory body instead of ruling politicians," he noted.
In his turn, a Member of the European Parliament from Germany Dietmar Köster stated that freedom of speech, independent journalism and due legal procedure are fundamental democratic and European values.
"Freedom of speech, independent journalism and due legal procedure are fundamental democratic and European values. A free press, freedom of expression and freedom of speech are essential for the functioning of civil society and democracy," he said.
Therefore, according to the MEP, the decision of President Zelensky to ban the media extrajudicially is a violation of procedural norms and freedom of speech.
"The ban on these media, which threatens the jobs of journalists and restricts access to the media by a large part of the population, is unacceptable. I agree with the condemnation of these actions by the International Federation of Journalists: they resemble a politically motivated attack on freedom of speech," he said.
"Ignoring due process, the judiciary and fundamental rights is never acceptable in a democracy. Without a formal process and court hearings, banning news sources, especially news sources related to the political opposition, can never be justified in a democratic system. Banning the media is an extreme measure that should be applied only in exceptional circumstances and with special attention to democratic processes, and not on the basis of a presidential decree," the German parliamentarian stressed.
"President Zelensky's decision restricts the right to freedom of expression and, as it severely impedes public access to the media, violates the right to receive information through any media, as enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. without a court decision and due process, it is highly questionable," Dietmar Köster said.
In addition, MEPs Kateřina Konečná, Mick Wallace, and Clare Daly wrote a letter to the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, drawing his attention to the situation in Ukraine in connection with President Volodymyr Zelensky's decision to close three opposition TV channels extrajudicially.
In a letter to Borrell, MEPs noted that the decision to ban the broadcasting of three TV channels in Ukraine had been condemned by the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, as well as the International and European Federation of Journalists (IFJ and EFJ).
It states that the actions of President Zelensky's administration contradict even Ukrainian law, as it does not give the president the right to impose sanctions on domestic companies or the media.
"The president's office does not have the authority to regulate the media (this is the responsibility of the State Committee of Ukraine for Television and Radio Broadcasting). Thus, the revocation of broadcasting licenses by a presidential decree (which cannot be challenged in court) is a clear violation of the principle of the rule of law in Ukraine,” the MEPs wrote.
In this regard, parliamentarians want to get an answer from Borrell whether President Zelensky's decision meets international legal standards in the field of freedom of speech and press. They also want to get information on what measures are being taken by the European Commission at this point, and how this issue is discussed with the leadership of Ukraine.
On February 2, Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree on sanctions against 112 Ukraine, NewsONE and ZiK TV channels. By this decree, he enforced the decision of the National Security and Defense Council on sanctions on the cancellation of the broadcasting licenses of the TV channels belonging to Taras Kozak (112 Ukraine, NewsOne, ZIK). According to the decree that is eligible since the moment of signature, the TV channels faced sanctions that will be active for five years. These sanctions make the broadcasting impossible.
After blocking the broadcast of TV channels, you can watch the broadcasts on YouTube.