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Opening of Google, YouTube representative offices in Ukraine to toughen censorship by authorities, - journalists of illegally closed media appeal with open letter to U.S. State Secretary Blinken

Source : 112 Ukraine

The letter concerns the introduction of total censorship and a serious threat to freedom of media in Ukraine
18:59, 3 September 2021

112 International

The employees of the TV channels and websites that were illegally closed by the Ukrainian authorities wrote a letter to U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken toward the introduction of total censorship and a serious threat to freedom of media in Ukraine.

“We urge you during the further contacts with the Ukrainian authorities to make it clear that the restrictions of media, particularly, blocking of such mass media as our without independent judicial consideration seriously disrupts the supremacy of law and that is why it is unacceptable for the United States,” the letter states.

We provide the full text of the letter:

To the United States Secretary of State,

United States Department of State,

Washington, D.C., 20520.

Dear Secretary of State,

A few days ago, on August 31, 2021, the meeting took place of First Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov and Google Vice President Karan Bhatia on future cooperation and further joint plans of the company and Ukraine.

During this meeting, Minister Fedorov has urged to open separate representative offices of Google and YouTube in Ukraine as the government believes it is necessary for current terms of counteraction the military aggression to moderate the content in Ukraine. It would allow to select and recommend content for the main page of Ukrainian YouTube Music and YouTube in Ukraine.

In the letter of President of Freedom House Michael Abramowitz to President Biden, it is underlined that President Zelensky continues to use executive power, without judicial consideration, for sanctions against mass media, technological platforms, journalists, and websites on a pretext of the fight against disinformation. These illegal sanctions concern, particularly, our mass media, as we work independently from the policy of the government and when it is necessary, we criticize it.

Although YouTube has already blocked three closed TV channels at the request of Ukrainian officials and without a court decision or trial, we have still been able to transmit part of our information via the channels of Google and YouTube instead.

If the Ukrainian representative’s offices of Google and YouTube are created, this process of blocking will simplify significantly. It will be much easier for the Ukrainian authorities – through putting pressure on local representative offices – to extend possibilities of censorship, including for Goggle and YouTube.

That is why we urge you during further contacts with the Ukrainian authorities to make it clear that the restrictions of media, particularly, blocking of such mass media as our without independent judicial consideration seriously disrupts the supremacy of law and that is why it is unacceptable for the United States

We also ask you to inform Google Company about serious threats to freedom of media in Ukraine that can appear as a result of the opening of separate representative offices of Google and YouTube in Ukraine.

We would like to underline one more time that the guarantee of the existence of free, independent and when it is necessary critical mass media should be an important part of our common will and efforts on the provision of the democratic development of Ukraine.

We hope for your support.

Earlier, the staff of the illegally closed by the Ukrainian authorities TV Channels and websites have appealed to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights with the request to pay attention to the problem of the elimination of freedom of speech in Ukraine and influence the Ukrainian authorities in general and President Zelensky in particular. It is stated in the statement of the journalist to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

At the end of August, the journalists of illegally closed 112 Ukraine, NewsOne, ZiK TV channels, as well as Pershiy Nezalezhniy, representatives of Strana.ua and Sharij.net held protest near the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, during which they handed over a letter about illegal actions of the Ukrainian authorities against media representatives to the U.S. Embassy and the diplomatic mission accepted it.

Earlier, hundreds of journalists of 112 Ukraine, NewsOne and ZiK TV channels gathered at the UN Office in Ukraine to show gratitude for the report of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights "Update on the Human Rights Situation in Ukraine," which deemed the closure of the TV channels illegal.

As it was reported earlier, 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.

On August 20, the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine Oleksiy Danilov announced the imposition of sanctions against the editor-in-chief of the Internet portal Strana.ua Igor Guzhva, the publishing companies of Strana.ua, blogger and journalist Anatoly Shariy, his wife Olga and several others. Danilov stated that they were allegedly engaged in "illegal activities on the territory of Ukraine."

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.

During the last months, the world mass media, European politicians, and experts published over 80,000 materials dedicated to the persecution by Ukrainian authorities of the opposition and independent TV channels.

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