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Why Servant of the People wants to slim down parliamentary committee on freedom of speech

Author : Media outlet Strana.ua

A "slimmed" version of the body turns it into a “plaintive book” and cuts off strategic decisions about the fate of the media
14:00, 14 August 2019

Open source

Servant of the People party plans to cut off the functions of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Freedom of Speech (before giving this committee to the opposition).

We have learned this information from the draft document, got by our sources. They plan to adopt it at the first working meeting of the Rada, which will be held in late August.

At the same time, systemic powers to regulate the activities of the media in Ukraine will be transferred to the new Rada committee. 

Related: President's Office initiates creation of Freedom of Speech Council in Ukraine

How the freedom of speech would be cut

According to our information, only three functions will be left to the Committee on Freedom of Speech:

  • Freedom of Speech
  • Rights of citizens to information
  • Protection of the rights and freedoms of media workers

 Committee’s current activities are:

  • State policy in the field of information and information security
  • Freedom of Speech
  • Rights of citizens to information
  • Printed, electronic media and the Internet
  • Coverage of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine
  • Fundamentals of the implementation of promotional activities.

A slimmed version of the Committee turns it into a “plaintive book” and cuts off strategic decisions about the fate of the media. More global issues are now given to the committee on humanitarian policy - it will be headed by the protégé of the ruling party, 1 + 1 TV channel general director of Oleksandr Tkachenko.

It will be joined by another Servant of the People member political strategist Mykyta Poturaev. He has already confirmed that his committee would deal with media bills - in particular, about audiovisual services, print media, online publications, and press oversight.

Poturaev called deoligarchization of media as one of the main tasks of the "large" humanitarian committee (where the fate of the media will actually be decided), which will be included in a separate law.

However, he does not mind that the committee will be headed by a long-term top manager of the oligarch Igor Kolomoysky.

Related: Single-party coalition: Seven risks for Zelensky's Servant of the People party

Turning the committee into a decoration

Journalists and human rights activists commented on the initiatives Servant of the People.

Serhiy Tomilenko, chairman of the National Union of Journalists:

Europeans are waiting for the new government to protect freedom of speech. There is a risk that initiatives that relate to the media and information space, the rights of journalists, will be discussed at parallel sites. There should be one committee where debates on freedom of expression will be held. Creating several parallel sites will unfocus attention on the problem.

Vasyl Golovanov, of NewsOne TV channel general producer:

Do we really need a committee on freedom of speech if it does not have authority? Even if it is given to the opposition, the information security functions will be transferred to the new humanitarian and information committee, which might be headed by Oleksandr Tkachenko. We will see what powers these two committees will have, although I am initially skeptical. There is no need to produce unnecessary committees, especially since the Servant of the People party advocates reducing the number of committees. It would be better to restart the work of the incumbent."

Related: Servant of the People head reveals party's position on Donbas issue, coalition, state budget 2020

Yuriy Pavlenko, MP, member of the current Committee on Freedom of Speech:

"The committee is deliberately divided in order to create a mono-structure for director-general of the 1 + 1 channel, Oleksandr Tkachenko, who during the election campaign has already stated that the country does not need a number of television channels.

Poroshenko’s power began to act worse than the previous government of Yanukovych, they did not give up the opposition committee, but they themselves headed it, taking control of the freedom of speech issue. The new government decided to eliminate the parliamentary concept - the control of protecting freedom of speech and protecting the independent work of independent media.

Now they want to destroy some parliamentary instrument in the person of a committee that could stand up for the protection of a journalist or the media.

At one time, the formation of the Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information Policy proceeded from the traditions of European parliamentarism and a certain Ukrainian tradition, formed during eight convocations of the Verkhovna Rada. The Committee on Freedom of Speech should not be split into two, but rather strengthened with additional control functions, such as the ability to influence the law enforcement system.

During the work of the Committee, law enforcement officials very often did not respond to the requirements of the committee. The law enforcement officials did not want to come with a report to the committee; I’m not even talking about getting them to investigate crimes. And here a small committee for five or six MPs will work. One day they would just stop attending the meetings.

Related: Taking everything: Servant of the People party does not want to share parliamentary committees

The Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy Issues should be headed by Oleksandr Tkachenko, therefore all the most important functions of the committee are drawn under it: influence on ministries, the National Council on Television and Radio Broadcasting, issuing licenses to TV channels, their termination, the procedure for covering information and controlling this information. All these powers are taken away from the Committee on Freedom of Speech and will leave only minor functions, such as: protecting freedom of speech and protecting journalists themselves.

I have nothing against Tkachenko, but the insolvency and immaturity of the policy of the new team are manifested precisely in the fact that the tasks of the committee are set not on the basis of state and national needs of the society, but on the basis of professional specialization and the desire of the individual. And his desire is simple: to occupy a beautiful position. The desire of his patrons is even simpler - to put control of the entire information market.

The separation of the committee looks unnatural; a hybrid of the committee is created. Social and informational policies should not be mixed, because on the basis of this logic all committees can be eliminated and be replaced by one structure, headed by Dmytro Razumkov. As a result of this disconnection, all issues that will concern freedom of speech, information security will have double subordination, which will complicate and trouble any decision-making process."

Read the original text here.

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