Main problem of Ukraine: Lack of freedom of speech

HolidaThe holiday action of Ukrainian Socialist Party devoted to the International Day of Workers’ Solidarity and to the International Day of Free Press, which is celebrated on May 3, was carried out in Ukraine under the slogan “For Freedom of Speech!” According to Alexandr Moroz, the leader of Ukrainian socialists, this is the most topical slogan for Ukraine. The lack of freedom of speech is a most pointed issue. Indeed, during the latest election campaign, not only socialists suffered because of the impossibility to represent their views to the electorate. However, the Ukrainian Central Election Committee does not consider the lack of freedom of speech to be a factor seriously influencing the election’s results. The authorities believe that there is freedom of speech in Ukraine. Moreover, they take care of journalists. Now, they try to supply all journalists with gas pistols, and they render assistance to the families of journalists who do not manage to protect themselves with gas pistols or with other means. The Ukrainian President passed a decree to protect children of journalists who have died while executing their professional duty. “I would not like any journalist to use this decree,” ForUm quotes Alexandr Moroz, the leader of the Socialist Party. However, many families still have to use the help of authorities, but the authorities themselves fight against freedom of speech.

“In 1999, New York Committee on Journalists’ Protection included President Leonid Kuchma on the list of “the ten worst enemies of the press,” - the report of Freedom House international organization reads. The same year, during the presidential campaign and later, the situation with Ukrainian mass media was aggravated with the state’s pressure upon the press’s freedom. Opposition newspapers were persecuted and closed, and TV programs were censored.” The document also reports that the mass media’s capability to gather information mostly depends on oligarchs controlling almost all important private editions in Ukraine. The mass media are under presidential pressure and seldom dare to criticize the executive power.” The organization’s experts notice that, in Ukrainian legislation, there is no accurate difference between the right to a private life for average people and politicians, which allows the latter to demand great sums from journalists as “compensation of moral damage.”

“After Kuchma was reelected, the persecution of freedom of speech continued,” - the report reads. – September 2000, Svoboda edition (Freedom) had to stop publishing articles criticizing some high functionaries. September 16, 2000, journalist for Ukrainska Pravda Georgy Gongadze disappeared.

Journalists in Ukraine are disconnected, while professional unions do not play such a large role. The official post-Soviet Association of Ukrainian Journalists is not completely independent. The number of its official members makes up 12,000 people, while about one-third of them are women. Women make about 10-15 percent of the Editors-in-Chief Guild of Ukrainian mass media. The same could be said about other press organizations that are being financed by the West, including the Committee of Journalist Protection, Ukrainian Media-Club, and the Centre of Freedom of Speech. In general, these organizations do not have any influence upon the political process. The report also notices some attempts of the Ukrainian authorities to establish control over the Internet, which have been, happily, unsuccessful so far. However, they are being continued.

Since 1992, Freedom of Speech Review , published by Freedom House, Ukraine regularly receives the status of a “partly free country." The socialists were right in having understood that, while the press is only partly free in Ukraine, the country itself is free only in part. Probably, while possessing the fool freedom of speech, Ukraine would be a completely other country…

Andrei Lubensky PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Vera Solovieva Read the original in Russian:

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