Report for the Government of Ukraine Ukraine’s roadblock to the EU:attacks on the press Analysis by Una Hrnjak SIS 645 Summer 2012 Submitted on: June 28, 2012Executive Summary Ukraine is a fairly new democratic republic, still transforming from a communist societyto adopting democratic principles. Since gaining its independence from the USSR, Ukrainianleaders have expressed their deepest commitment to human rights – including media freedom.Over the last decade however, the world has grown skeptical of Ukraine’s respect for the media,causing organizations like the European Union to question Ukraine’s sincere commitment todemocracy and sincere interest in joining the Union. This report will review the Law of Ukraine“On Printed Mass Media (Press) in Ukraine”, and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of thepolicy. The report will conclude by recommending steps for improvement of the policy to theGovernment of Ukraine to not only help the government better protect freedom of speech andexpression but also to comply with EU mandates.
Introduction Following the break-up of the USSR, Ukraine gained independence in 1991 and began itstransformation from a communist society to a democratic society; promoting a civil society andhuman rights including freedom of speech. Ukraine included such vows in its Constitution,legislation as well as through the adoption of various international treaties. This report will focusparticularly on the Law “On Printed Mass Media (Press) in Ukraine”which granted newspapersthe right to function and limited censorship. Since Ukraine’s origin the government has remained dedicated to adopting internationalhuman rights standards and treaties in relation to media freedom but there have been somequestions raised with President ViktorYanukovych’s commitment to this. Since the mid-90s,Ukrainianofficials have been determined to foster better relations between the European Unionand Ukraine with eventual entry of Ukraine in to the Union (European Union, 2012), but tocomplete this there are many outstanding policies Yanukovych and the current Parliament wouldneed to implement. Yanukovych has been shifting to more authoritarian wayswhilerebuildingties with Russia andthishas caused many to question the country’s true commitment to EU entry(Pifer, 2011).Toreduce his pro-Russia image to EU officials, Yanukovychhas spoken out greatlyin speeches about his promisetopursue press freedom and economic integration with Europe"Aspresident, I will guarantee freedom of the media and appropriate investigation of any facts oftheir oppression”(Committee to Protect Journalists, 2011). Although Yanukovych may say thingslike this in his speeches, there is hesitation within the international community to believe he isgenuine. An administration that has clear examples of silencing the media faces a deep problemwhen attempting to convince the world they are trying to adopt a more liberal model towardscommunication policies. Because of this, this report is essential to the Ukrainian government to
better understand what must be done to resolve this issue before the EU stalls entryconversations.EU entry Among the key priorities for Ukraine outlined in the EU Action Plan is the need to,“Ensure respect for the freedom of the media and expression including: further improve andenforce the legal and administrative framework for freedom of media taking into accountrelevant Council of Europe recommendations and to ensure effective respect of freedom ofmedia, including journalists’ rights” (European Commission European Neighbourhood Policy,2005). Although the Ukrainian government has incorporated language about media freedom inits Constitution, implemented media legislation and ratified various international treatiesincluding European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil andPolitical Rights, there is still much to be done to show the government’s sincere commitment tomedia freedom as well as journalists’ rights. According to the 2010 Press Freedom Indexproduced by Reporters Without Borders, Ukraine ranks 131 out of 178 next to countries like Iraqand Egypt for press freedom – a derisory showing for a country looking to join the EuropeanUnion (Reporters Without Borders, 2010).Media situation in Ukraine As Ukraine remains committed to joining the EU, the deteriorating media situation inUkraine has received the attention of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe(PACE). PACE has been tracking various reports released by organizations like ReportersWithout Bordersthat show an increase in intimidation efforts (including violent threats,kidnappings and even death) against journalists in Ukraine, limiting the ability of the country’swatchdogs to report on what is truly happening within its borders (including corruption within
the government). The decline in press freedom has specifically increased since President ViktorYanukovych came in to office (Reporters Without Borders, 2010). Aside from tracking thenumber of reported attacks to silence the media, PACE has been following the lack of effort byUkraine’s government toappropriately investigate attacksand found the lack ofinvestigationsto becompletely unacceptable (Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, 2007) and disrespectful tojournalists’ rights. Mats Johansson, the Standing Rapporteur for Media Freedom of PACEsCommittee on Culture, Science and Education, and Arne König, President of the EuropeanFederation of Journalists explained, “We are very concerned by threats to media freedom in Ukraine, which chairs the Council of Europes Committee of Ministers at a time of severe national political challenges. It is important for democracy that independent media can freely report on a political crisis. Impunity for attacks on journalists and the media undermines democracy and the rule of law. It is unacceptable that law enforcement authorities have not yet been able to shed light on the disappearance of VasylKlymentyev one year ago. Therefore, we call on the competent authorities in Ukraine to ensure that independent and truthful information can be disseminated freely by the media in Ukraine (Council of Europe, 2011)Ukraine’s blind eye to the threats against its own journalists and even the mistreatment of foreignjournalists has caused various EU leaders to continue questioning Yanukovych’s ability toreform policies for future EU entry. During meetings in 2010, Chancellor Angela Merkel urgedPresident Yanukovych to address the crisis surrounding press freedom in his country. Merkelexplained, "I made clear that with regard to certain democratic areas, in particular, in the area ofpress freedom and freedom of opinion, we [the EU] had certain questions" (Radio Free Europe,2010).At a June 2011 meeting of the OSCE states, Article 19 and the International MediaSupport groupsexplained to countries that there is “no justice for journalists in Ukraine, Belarusand Russia” (International Media Support, 2011).The deaths and disappearances of journalists inUkraine, such as VasylKlymentyev, Igor Aleksandrov and GeorgiyGongadze were outlined inthe report to show a lack of commitment by the government to investigate and bring justice(International Media Support, 2011).
Media laws in Ukraine In Ukraine’s Constitution,Article 15 bans censorship (Government of Ukraine, 1996) andArticle 34 promotes freedom of expression, “Everyone shall be guaranteed the right to freedom of thought and speech, and to free expression of hisviews and beliefs. Everyone shall have the right to freely collect, store, use, and disseminate information by oral,written, or other means at his discretion. The exercise of such rights may be restricted by law in the interests ofnational security, territorial integrity, or public order, for the purposes of preventing disturbances or crimes,protecting the health of the population, protecting the reputation or rights of other persons, preventing thepublication of information received confidentially, or supporting the authority and impartiality of justice(Government of Ukraine, 1996).”To accompany this, three pieces of legislation were passed in the early 90s to support freedom ofexpression including theLaw of Ukraine “On Printed Mass Media (Press) in Ukraine”, which wasapproved in December 1992 (Government of Ukraine, 2009). The Act provided the legal basis for theoperation of print media, the procedure for state registration of publications, the rights andobligations of the journalists as well as the relations between the media and the public and otherorganizations (Government of Ukraine, 2009). However, there have been plenty of issues in printedmass media as well as in the broadcasting industry where journalists have been punished by thegovernment for what they report on. Ukraine’s Constitution and its accompanying media laws do notshow a commitment to protecting journalists’ rights. There is an issue within the country wherejournalists must actually fear for their safety when reporting and this is completely unacceptablewhen expecting EU entry. The laws do not discuss at all what the government will do in response tothreats, physical attacks and even death to journalists when their freedom of expression is eliminated,nor does the law explain what will be done to officials – including those ruling the country – forviolating such rights. For this reason this report will identify recommendations to better protectfreedom of expression to help Ukraine comply with EU laws and standards.The Law of Ukraine “On Printed Mass Media (Press) in Ukraine” Overview The Law of Ukraine “On Printed Mass Media (Press) in Ukraine” was established toguarantee the operation of printed mass media in Ukraine(Government of Ukraine, 2009) – which is
the law’s biggest strength. Allowing media organizations to function and report on social, economicand political issues is important in a democratic society. According to the law, each citizen shouldhave the ability to freely express their opinions in printed form and that what they print shall be freefrom censorship(Government of Ukraine, 2009). The law gives permission to not only Ukrainianresidents to report in printed media but also to those of foreign origin to express their opinions.Within the Law there is greater detail as to what it means to be a journalist, how to function as one,and how the journalist should report to his/her editorial staff for publication decisions. In addition theLaw outlines that, “editorial staff of mass media uses authors materials, works of literature, scienceand art exclusively adhering to the legislation on intellectual property”(Government of Ukraine,2009). The Law continues to discuss the right for a legal entity or natural person to refute what ispublished if it is believed to be false. Finally, the law includes information on how to register anewspaper.Policy Analysis The Law of Ukraine “On Printed Mass Media (Press) in Ukraine”appearscomprehensivegreat in theory but it is very vague and allows the government of Ukraine to overstepits boundaries whenever necessary because there are no true boundaries drawn within this policy.Although this law and the Constitution claim that everyone has a right to their own opinion andshould be able to express themselves freely through media outlets, this has not been upheld. TheConstitution, which compliments this law states, “Everyone shall have the right to freely collect,store, use, and disseminate information by oral, written, or other means at hisdiscretion”(Government of Ukraine, 1996). However, numerous examples of pressure from thegovernment to silence journalists has shown this law does not ensure any kind of accountability onbehalf of the government to commit to such a promise.
Communication Model Because PresidentYanukovych’sadministration resembles more closely the traditions of theformer USSR and now his close ally, Russia (Pifer, 2011), the approach towards the media has beenone of the Nationalist – Cultural model in the Ukraine. Such a global communication policy model ischaracterized by authoritarian control of the media (Venturelli, 2012a), which is exemplified throughthe vast examples discussed in this report of extensive state intervention to control what the mediawrites about in print (as well as broadcasting) through intimidation against journalists.Harassmenttowards the media occurs in various forms from verbal threats, to kidnappings and even death ofjournalists to control content. The majority of the time, content is controlled when it exposes storiesof corruption in Ukraine’s government.Arendt argued that public space should not advance theprivate interests of parties (Venturelli, 2012b) but politicians like Yanukovych do this when theylimit a journalist’s ability to disseminate important information to the public. When a journalistis disabled from sharing information about the government including stories about governmentcorruption it makes it difficult for citizens to have the appropriate conversations they need to behaving in public spaces about what is impacting their country. Such actions by the governmentare not done for the public good, they are done to protect themselves and do not allow citizens toproperly participate in the democracy. The law does not hold the leaders of Ukraine accountablefor when they do abuse Ukraine’s media to do this and that is a true weakness of the policy and aweakening element of Ukrainian society. As it was decided in the case of the Observer &Guardian Newspaper v UK, “Freedom of the press affords the public one of the best means ofdiscovering and forming an opinion of the ideas and attitudes of their political leaders” (Harris,2009). In addition, this type of communications model attempts to preserve national culture(Venturelli, 2012a) and identity which can be exemplified through the 2004 ban in on Russian TV
channels and Radio channels, in order to promote “Ukrainization” (DeLong, 2011), a policy designedto promote the Ukrainian language and other elements of Ukrainian culture. Although this policy hasbegun to weaken under Yanukovych there are still elements of this practice prevalent in current timesresembling another characteristic of the Nationalist-Cultural model. Given Ukraine’s Soviet roots,this form of authoritarian control and nationalist nature was part of the old model promoted by theSoviets and is still being transitioned out as Ukraine works towards being a fully free and democraticsociety. Controlled for most of the twentieth century by the conservative Communist system, themedia is still learning to operate in a new democratic, economic, political, ideological, and culturalenvironment (Press Reference, 2011).Weaknesses Erik Bjerager, President of the World Editors Forum explained that “one of the roles of agovernment is to foster an environment where a free press can flourish by being independent ofgovernmental, political or economic control” (Aid News, 2012). Unfortunately the Law of Ukraine“On Printed Mass Media (Press) in Ukraine does not promote this type of an environment. WithinEU countries – there is an expectation that citizens should be part of public debate and that they havethe true rights to be informed. The European Union deploys a public service tradition of the liberalmarket model of global communication (Venturelli, 2012a, b) where there is room for thegovernment to be involved with the media as a provider of a public service to the people. However,the level of intervention and harassment by Ukraine’s administration is indicative more of controland manipulation of the media. Within society, journalists serve as the gatekeepers to suchinformation – and when their ability to properly disseminate important information to the public islimited there is a significant problem in ensuring a democratic society. As the government owns many of the newspapers in Ukraine they have the ability to controlthe information that is disseminated to the public (Government of Ukraine, 2009). The law’s biggestweakness is handing this power to Ukraine’s government officials who have a history of corruption
(Lavrov, 2010) and controlling media content to protect their actions. This type of an approach doesnot align with the rest of the European Union and causes problems when the models are so different.Since the EU promotes communications polices geared towards promoting a free society where thereis an expectation that human rights and free expression are granted to all (Council of Europe, 2008),if the Ukraine continues to function contrary to this expectation, it will be extremely difficult toachieve compliance to EU policies and expectations and the relationship may drastically dwindle.Implications Since PACE learned about the various threats towards journalists in countries such as theUkraine, the Council of Europe passed “Resolution 1535:Threats to the lives and freedom ofexpression of journalists”putting pressure on governments like the Ukraine to take press freedomseriously (Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, 2007).Within this Resolution, the Councilof Europe publically denounced the brutal attacks on Ukrainian journalists such asIhorMosiyshuck,Sergei Yanovski and Lilia Budjurova and expressed its deep concern with the lack of investigativemeasures committed to solvingsuch cases, death threats and murder cases against journalists(Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, 2007). The Resolution explained that based on therecord of attacks in neighboring countriesjournalists in Ukraine“have to work under fear for theirlives and physical safety” (Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, 2007). Having journalistsfeel that they must fear for their lives for doing their jobmakes the EU question whether or notUkraine is truly committed to developing a true democracy and respecting human rights. In addition,other actors within the international community are also questioning Ukraine’s commitment todemocracy because of the country’s disinterest in protecting media freedom. The country’s actionshave begun ruining its reputation not only within the EU community but also globally. Due to international pressure, 11 years after his death, the government of Ukraine respondedto the murder of GeorgiyGongadze (BBC News Europe, 2010). In addition, the government
established a parliamentary ad hoc commission,“to investigate censorship in the media, pressure onfreedom of speech, and obstruction of journalistic activities” (Article 19, 2010). At this time, theCommission has been functioning at a low level (Article 19, 2010), not showing adequatecommitment by the government to resolve the problems relating to media freedom. These twomeasures are not enough to show full commitment to protecting journalists within Ukraine.Recommendations Free and independent media is a reflection of a true democracy (Article 19, 2010) and theUkrainian Parliament must make decisive action to ensure this exists.This report recommends thatUkraine musttransmute legislation to comply with European and international standards that ensuresrespect for freedom of expression and diversity of opinion (Article 19, 2010). This report wouldmake the following recommendations to help the Government of Ukraine in meeting the demands ofthe European Union: Establish a committee of media experts, consultants and Ukrainian government policy leaders to develop a strategic plan for transforming Ukraine’s current media legislation including the Law of Ukraine “On Printed Mass Media (Press) to meet the demands of the EU which promotes more liberal global communications policies. The Law of Ukraine “On Printed Mass Media (Press) in Ukraine” should be amended to address the following priority areas outlined by the Council of Europe in Resolution 1535: o Under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), “Freedom of expression and information in the media includes the right to express political opinions and criticize the authorities and society, expose governmental mistakes, corruption and organized crime…”(Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, 2007). This report recommends that in order to ensure journalists can act freely there must be an emphasis in the language of the law stating the actual desire to protect the safety of journalists to
speak out against all matters freely; including the operations of the government and acts of government leaders. o To support the demands of Articles 2 and 10 of the ECHR(Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, 2007)this report recommends the addition of language in the law establishing an official monitoring system to investigate former/current attacks on Ukraine’s journalists; members of NGOs and civil society should be a part of this system to oversee fairness of investigations. o In addition, language in the law should include the ability for authorities to be held accountable when failing to protect the freedom of expression of journalists or when failing to act/investigate or prosecute; To ensure success of such a system, Ukraine’s judges, law enforcement authorities and police should be trained on better respecting media freedom.Conclusion While press freedom is guaranteed by Ukraine’s Constitution and the Law of Ukraine “OnPrinted Mass Media (Press) in Ukraine”, journalists have come under significant pressure from thegovernment over the past decade; including threats against their lives, kidnappings, beatings andmurder. As the country hopes to enter the European Union, policy reforms must be implemented toaddress such issues as the EU and the international community’s perception of Ukraine’scommitment to ensuring press freedom reduces.The Law of Ukraine “On Printed Mass Media (Press)in Ukraine should be amended to include language emphasizing the safety of journalists and theirright to carry out their work without threats tohelp the government of Ukraine salvage its reputationin the international community.
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