The journalists of 112 Ukraine and NewsOne TV channels met with the representatives of OSCE mission that assesses the needs of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR OSCE) on November 20. The meeting took place in the Office of the OSCE Project Coordinator in Ukraine.
The mission includes the Head of the Election Department of OSCE ODIHR Alexander Shlyk; Senior Election Advisor of the OSCE ODIHR Steven Martin; Ulvi Ahundlu, Election Advisor and Chief Political Advisor of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Francesco Pagani.
Alexander Shlyk and Francesco Pagani invited Volodymyr Poluev, Nadiya Sass, Daryna Bilera and Bohdan Aminov to the official meeting to discuss the freedom of speech during the election campaign in Ukraine.
According to them, it is the biggest mission of the ODIHR that came to Ukraine to monitor the media. It is important for the European experts to receive information both about the legal and practical issues of holding an election campaign, and to give a real assessment of the freedom of expression of unbiased and truthful information in the Ukrainian media.
“We have just arrived yesterday, but we have already seen many billboards with officials running for the elections. It gives an understanding that the election campaign is already at full blast. The billboards are different, with or without faces, but the most impressive was the statement that the President is “a people’s servant,” Alexander Shlyk shared his first impressions upon arrival to Ukraine.
The representatives of TV channels informed European inspectors about the pressure on journalists in Ukraine.
"We all agree that the freedom of media is a key element of any free election. This freedom must be assessed before the election, and not just on the voting day. And here we are faced with serious problems already questioning the free and fair nature of the upcoming elections. The main problem is the violence against journalists. As you know, some of my colleagues have been killed since 2014 without any consistent results of investigations and without holding the perpetrators accountable,” 112 Ukraine TV channel presenter Nadiya Sass said.
The presenter of the main political talk show of the country ‘Pulse’ Volodymyr Poluev joined the discussion: "The authorities through their power influence the law enforcement bodies that intimidate and attack journalists who do their work. The government, its supporters and radicals arbitrarily call the independent media opposition or pro-Russian one, creating an atmosphere of hatred that undermine the safety of journalists.
The presenter from NewsOne Daryna Bilera confirmed the words of her colleagues from 112 Ukraine: “I recently fell victim during the assault at the General Prosecutor’s Office. The activists of the rally tried to take away my microphone and tried to prevent me telling live what was happening. Then they started to beat me on the head, and now I have problem with hearing. The police did not do anything, only advised to stay away from the General Prosecutor’s Office.
In addition, NewsOne TV channel journalist Bohdan Aminov present at a meeting, told about a similar situation of physical violence against him during the march in the memory of transgender people who were killed.
The meeting focused on the fact that aggressive behavior towards media representatives and the pressure on freedom of speech in Ukraine intensified after the “inofficial” start of the election campaign. The representatives of OSCE ODIHR mission promised to take into account the information received from 112 Ukraine and NewsOne journalists during the preparation of recommendations on the ODIHR activities, related to the observation of the presidential elections in 2019. According to them, this document will be made public in late December.
Earlier, Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada urged the country’s National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine to introduce sanctions against several Ukrainian TV channels. 229 MPs supported the draft law No. 9157 on 'Approval of recommendations to introduce personal special economic sanctions and other restrictive measures (sanctions)'.
Thirteen European parliamentarians appealed to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to revoke the decision on imposing sanctions on 112 Ukraine and NewsOne TV channels. The leaders of 112 Ukraine and NewsOne channels arrived in Brussels personally to talk to the lawmakers and get their support. The issue of freedom of speech in Ukraine is raised at the international conferences, forums, and in the offices of European parliamentarians. The MPs carefully study the situation regarding the sanctions against Ukrainian broadcasters and sign the petition.