The International Federation of Journalists joined protests led today by the Independent Media Trade Union of Ukraine (IMTUU) against the current law governing the forthcoming parliamentary election campaign.
The IFJ supports demands that the Ukrainian Parliament remove articles that allow for the closure of media outlets without a court order and require journalists to report political events without ‘comment or assessment’.
“The law is vague, poorly prepared and leaves too much room for abuse by the authorities,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary.
Article 71 of Ukraine’s election law states that the licence of print and broadcast media may be revoked without a court order in the following instances: calls for a change in the Ukraine constitution, incitement to violence, war propaganda or distribution of knowingly false information about a political party.
Article 68 of the law states that equal opportunities should be provided to candidates in relation to the use of the media, but goes on to say that:
“Events of the election campaign may be covered in all media outlets of all forms of ownership as news coverage based on unbiased, objective reports of specific information of events, with no comments and assessments.”
“Article 68 will stifle political debate and prevent journalists from effectively scrutinising political arguments, while article 71 is a straightforward and chilling threat to press freedom,” added Arne Konig, Chair of the European Federation of Journalists, regional body of the IFJ. “The credibility of the current government is already suffering from the failure to prosecute those who ordered the murder of Georgy Gongadze. Failure to remove these articles from the electoral law will send a further signal that the authorities are not prepared to meet their obligations to build a genuinely free and democratic Ukraine.”
The Independent Media Trade Union of Ukraine is organising demonstrations outside the Ukraine Parliament and in other regions of the country at midday today. The demonstrators are accusing the Parliament, President and Central Election Committee of hanging the free press.
IMTUU requests that protest letters be sent to Mr. Volodymyr Lutvyn, Chair of the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) of Ukraine. Fax: + 380 44 255 20 58 / + 380 44 253 06 53 / + 380 44 255 30 08 / + 380 44 286 83 34
Letters of support can also be sent directly to the IMTUU.
Fax: + 380 44 289 71 97