Tools of censorship and restriction of freedom of speech: scandalous law “On Media” adopted in Ukraine
Now the National Council will be able to fine and close individual media, and the authorities say that it complies with international standards.
December 29, 2022 President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky signed the law "On Media", supported in the Verkhovna Rada on December 13. It was actively criticized by both journalists and human rights activists at the stage of the bill, but it is presented in power as necessary for movement in the EU. We tell you what is wrong with this law and what the Ukrainian press can now expect.
What is the law about?
Bill №2693-d was published on the BP website back in July 2020 and allows you to regulate various media, including online media, bloggers and web platforms.
The law significantly expands the powers of the National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting, which receives the following rights:
- the right to send binding instructions to the editorial offices of all media outlets;
- the right to fine all types of media;
- the right, without a court decision, to ban the operation of online media for a period of 14 days and cancel the registration of print media.
With regard to online media, under the new law it is not mandatory to register websites, but registered online media cannot be blocked without a court order. Wherein enough to block the publication of three articles, which will violate Ukrainian law, and refuse after the order of the National Council to remove them within a month. If the media is anonymous (there are no identified journalists and owners), it can be block without a court order.
The law spelled out 3 types of violations for which sanctions can be applied: minor, major and gross.
Minor violations were, among other things:
- non-provision or provision in violation of the deadlines to the National Council of information upon request or an application for amendments to the Register and updated statements on the ownership structure;
- failure to post up-to-date ownership information on its website;
- violation of the requirements to provide part of the songs in the state language.
Significant breaches include, among others:
- statements that discriminate against individuals or groups on the basis of ethnic origin, citizenship, race, religion, age, gender, physical characteristics, health status and other grounds;
- dissemination and provision access to films, the demonstration of which is prohibited in Ukraine in accordance with the law "On Cinematography";
- distribution of programs denied or justified criminal nature communist and national socialist totalitarian regimes, as well as a demonstration of their symbols;
- violation of language requirements in the field of audiovisual media, violation of the requirements to ensure the share of songs in the state language by more than 5%;
- distribution of audiovisual media of audiovisual works (films, programs), one of the participants of which is a person included in the List of persons who pose a threat to the national media space of Ukraine (approved by the National Council);
- distribution of statements or materials in which the state language is despised or humiliated.
Serious violations include, among other things:
- calls for violent change, overthrow of the constitutional order of Ukraine, the beginning or conduct of an aggressive war or military conflict,
- violation of territorial integrity of Ukraine, including recognition of the lawful occupation of the territory of Ukraine, denial of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, dissemination of materials or information that justify or promote actions aimed at violent change, overthrow of the constitutional order of Ukraine, recognition of the lawful occupation of the territory of Ukraine, denial of territorial integrity, etc. .;
- statements inciting national, racial, religious hatred or hatred towards individuals or their groups;
- refusal to conduct an audit, submission by the subject of false information about the structure of ownership;
- failure to comply with the requirements of the National Council to bring the ownership structure in line with the requirements of this law.
The penalties for these violations are as follows::
- for gross violations - a fine of 25% of the license fee for licensees or from 10 to 75 minimum wages;
- for significant violations - a fine of 10% of the license fee for licensees or from 5 to 50 minimum wages;
- for minor violations - a fine of 5% of the license fee for licensees or from 1 to 25 minimum wages.
The National Council may examine the ownership structure of the media and recognize it as non-transparent if the subject in the media sphere has not submitted the documents required by the National Council within the established time limits or if this structure is recognized as such according to the results of the audit. A transparent ownership structure of online media in the National Council will be considered if the following requirements are met:
- the information provided makes it possible to identify all those who take direct or indirect significant participation in the activities of the media subject, including the purposes of holding corporate rights;
- if there are no trusts among the owners (unless the trustee is acting in the interests of the settlor of the trust);
- if among the owners there are no legal entities registered in offshore zones.
Recognition of the ownership structure of a subject in the field of media as non-transparent is the basis for refusal to renew the license, and may become the basis for applying to the court to cancel the license, cancellation of registration or prohibition of distribution of online media in Ukraine.
With an appeal to restrict access to the site, the National Council can also apply to foreign platforms - including the requirement to withdraw or block the issuance of these media in search results and catalogs.
Note that this law voted representatives of all factions - despite the fact that in the first reading in the Voice and the EU they did not support him.
What do the authorities, lawyers and the public say?
Main Expert Directorate of BP считаетthat the voted bill required significant revision. “The provisions of the draft contradict the Constitution of Ukraine, do not take into account the legal positions of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, the international legal obligations of Ukraine and the practice of the European Court of Human Rights”, - noted in the GNEU.
European Federation of Journalists urged him to withdraw. “The forced regulation envisaged by the bill in the hands of a fully government-controlled regulator worthy of the worst authoritarian regimes. It must be withdrawn. A state that will apply such provisions simply does not belong in the European Union.”- said in July 2022 Secretary General of the European Federation of Journalists Ricardo Gutierrez.
National Union of Journalists of Ukraine demanded to postpone consideration of this law until the victory of Ukraine in the war. Yes, his head Sergey Tomilenko warned that key legislation is being changed without discussion with journalists and the public, and the final version of the bill was made public just a day before the vote. He also stated that the law allows the introduction of censorship tools and a significant restriction of freedom of speech in Ukraine.
But the Minister of Culture Alexander Tkachenko claimedthat the document was discussed with European experts, it complies with the EU Directive on audiovisual media services and its adoption was necessary for accession to the EU.
We also wrote about Ukraine adopted a law on copyright protection, and told that tens of millions of hryvnias from the budget of a company associated with the President's Office are allocated from the budget for PR of Zelensky's pool on Rada TV.
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