OSCE representative calls on President Yanukovych to veto legislation criminalizing speech, endangering media freedom in Ukraine
VIENNA, 16 January 2014 - OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović today said she was concerned about the adoption of legislative amendments in Ukraine, including re-criminalization of libel, that endanger free speech.
“I am worried about today’s decision of Verkhovna Rada and call on the Ukrainian authorities to stop attempts to restrict free expression and free media,” Mijatović said.
Today the parliament, Verkhovna Rada, adopted amendments to the Criminal Code which introduce provisions recriminalizing defamation and provide additional protection for public officialsfrom critical speech. The amendments also introduce criminal responsibility for distributing extremist materials, which are broadly defined in the law, through the media and the Internet.
“In 2001 Ukraine was among the first OSCE participating States to decriminalize libel. This important reform was the starting point for Ukraine to have one of the most liberal legal environments for media in the region,” Mijatović said.
The Verkhovna Rada also introduced amendments to the law on the National Council on Television and Radio Broadcasting, allowing the President and Parliament the early and arbitrary dismissal of the members of National Council. Mijatovic pointed out that these amendments undermined the independence of the broadcasting regulator.
“I sincerely hope that President Yanukovych will veto the amendments, which might be arbitrarily interpreted and lead to disproportionate restrictions on media freedom, stifling debate and critical views,” Mijatović said.
Mijatović also noted that the amendments have not been publicly discussed with civil society and the media community.