Recent media freedom developments in Ukraine worrying, OSCE Representative says
VIENNA, 26 February 2016—OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović today expressed concern about recent media freedom developments in Ukraine.
Yesterday, a group of about 50 people identifying themselves as members of the Azov Civil Corps protested in front of the editorial office of Inter TV in Kyiv, demanding changes in the channel’s editorial policies. According to reports, protesters blocked the exits to Inter TV’s office and attempted to enter the premises. The blocking reportedly went on for more than two hours in the presence of police.
“These types of actions against media outlets are unacceptable, they compromise journalists’ safety and constitute a dangerous trend affecting free media,” Mijatović said. “I call on the authorities to take effective measures to prevent such attempts at intimidation and ensure that members of the media can do their job freely and safely.”
On the same day, the National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council (NTRBC) decided to conduct an unscheduled inspection of Inter TV after the channel broadcast movies produced in Russia and former Soviet Union.
On 24 February, journalist and producer Maria Stolyarova was expelled from Ukraine and banned from entering the country for three years for allegedly causing damage to the national security and territorial integrity of Ukraine. The decision reportedly followed behind-the-scenes obscene remarks by Stolyarova captured by live microphones and broadcast in a live news segment on Inter TV on 21 February.
Mijatović noted reports that the incident with Stolyarova prompted NTRBC to propose to the authorities to introduce restrictions on the work of foreign citizens in the field of media and to reconsider the working visas of Russian journalists.
“It is disappointing that the Council continues to engage in restrictive practices and policies, far beyond its broadcast regulation activities, which affect the work of members of the media,” Mijatović said.
The Representative also expressed concern about NTRBC’s decision of 18 February to propose to the National Security and Defence Council to introduce sanctions against 38 entities which own major Russian media outlets, as well as the outlets registered or operating in Crimea and certain areas of eastern Ukraine. According to reports, NTRBC also proposed that Ukrainian Internet service providers should block access to, and online broadcasting of, all media outlets in question.
“NTRBC’s decision raises concern about its proportionally as it would curtail the free flow of information, including on the Internet,” Mijatović wrote in a letter to Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin on 19 February. “Any measures restricting media activities should be directed only against narrowly defined illegal content, based on law and international media freedom obligations, and decided by courts of competent jurisdiction.”
Furthermore, Mijatović noted that on 11 February NTRBC removed several Russian television channels from the list of foreign programmes allowed to retransmit in Ukraine. Reportedly, the decision was in part enacted in line with legislation that allows suspending broadcasts which include individuals who have been determined to threaten the national security of the country. The Representative previously raised concerns about this legislation in February 2015.