Democratic Ukraine prepaires for election campaign

Ukraine's legislature overwhelmingly approved a bill Thursday prohibiting state authorities from carrying out inspections of media groups during the upcoming parliamentary election campaign.

Parliament also canceled part of a law that had barred the media from editorializing about political forces during the campaign and had empowered the Central Election Commission to close down any media outlet found in violation. Under the adopted changes, the ground rules were loosened and only a court was given the right to shut down media violators.

The original law was adopted in response to last year's bitter presidential election, during which losing candidate Viktor Yanukovych, backed by outgoing President Leonid Kuchma, used state media to discredit his opponent, current President Viktor Yushchenko. Independent media faced stiff government pressure during the presidential campaign.

Under the new legislation, media outlets not owned by political parties are barred from devoting more than 20 percent of their space or air time to party propaganda.

About 30 journalists in executioner-style hoods hung an effigy symbolizing a newspaper in front of the parliament building Thursday before lawmakers supported the bill to annul the media restrictions, according to the AP.


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