IFJ Election Mission Calls on Ukraine Authorities to End Censorship and Interference of Independent Media

The International Federation of Journalists, the world’s largest journalists’ organisation, today called on the Ukrainian authorities to cease all forms of censorship, interference and control over media, to end the intimidation of journalists protesting against such pressures and to guarantee free access for journalists in the polling stations for the second round due to take place on Sunday 21 November.

Ukrainian journalists move down Khreshatyk Street in Kyiv sweeping the streets as a symbolic reminder of dissenting journalists who were forced out of their jobs to work as care-takers during Soviet times
The call made up part of the recommendations contained in an IFJ report “Democracy in the News” issued today following the election monitoring mission for the first round of elections on 31 October.

“It is now well documented that the extensive protests by journalists during the election campaign was sparked by a profoundly biased coverage in the national broadcasters in favour of the government candidate Yanukovich,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “The IFJ is currently deeply concerned about two key issues. That the journalists who led protests are not subjected to acts of retribution, and that journalists are able to have full and unfettered access to the polling stations and counting process during the second round.”

The IFJ mission reported that, of the 300 journalists who joined the protests, 7 from the largest broadcaster 1+1 had resigned, and that certain journalists in UT-1, owned by Viktor Medvedchuk, head of the presidential administration, had been informed that their contracts would not be renewed. The Independent Media Trade Union of the Ukraine is investigating these cases.

The report also records that while journalists were granted access to polling stations in the first round, there were allegations that false press passes had been issued in various parts of the country to people intent on hampering media access. Both the Committee on Journalistic Ethics and the National Union of Journalists of the Ukraine raised these concerns with the authorities immediately before and following the first round.

“The extraordinarily tight result from the first round in which neither candidate was able to establish a commanding lead is fuelling tension during the final days of the campaign,” added White. “All parties involved in this election including the authorities, the public, the central election commission, the international observers etc., have to be on full alert against attempts to fraud or cheat the system this weekend. An essential means of eliminating fraud and minimising disputes over the final results is to ensure that the election is conducted in a fully transparent manner with free access to the media.”

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries