Russian Foreign Ministry concerned about freedom of speech in Ukraine

Russian Foreign Ministry concerned about freedom of speech in Ukraine

Steps on improving Ukraine’s legislation on protecting the rights of journalists were taken by the Ukrainian leadership not long ago. Moscow paid attention to the new attempt by the Ukrainian authorities to declare their commitment to democratic principles. On March 1 the Law on Amendments to Ukraine’s Criminal Code (improving the protection of journalists’ professional activities) was signed in Kiev. The main goal of the amendments is to improve the legal foundation and remove the shortcomings of the legislative regulation of issues linked with the current legal mechanism for protecting the professional activities of journalists. The amendments also provide for tougher punishment for deliberate attempts to prevent the lawful professional activities of media workers, including illegal withdrawal of their material, confiscation of technical equipment and denial of access to information.

Moscow welcomes Kiev’s desire to improve the national legislation on protecting the rights of media representatives. “Now the main thing is to ensure that these amendments do not become a non-committal reply to the relevant international European agencies involved in protecting journalists’ rights and become mechanisms that will work in real time, protecting not only Ukrainian journalists but also their foreign colleagues. I believe in common standards in this area and the relevant law should envisage permanent monitoring of the security services, which have been recently overzealous in keeping an eye on journalists and simply prevented them from working. We assume that the provisions of the article on the inadmissibility of preventing the activities of journalists will fully apply to the work of foreign correspondents, including those from Russia who are still affected by the discriminatory law No. 1853 on the temporary suspension of accreditation of journalists and technical workers of some Russian media at Ukraine’s government bodies,” Maria Zakharova, Spokesperson of the Russian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, said.

According to her, there are facts pointing to the existence of a very dangerous trend in this area in Ukraine: “We know about many crimes against journalists that are not being investigated at all or are not being investigated properly. I’m referring to raids against TV channels, the psychological pressure applied against non-conformist journalists, even corporal injuries and murder. You remember well such cases. Of course, we’d like to see them fully investigated. Only in this context, and with a change in attitude, will the amended law start working. I’d like to say that we are not the only ones to be worried about freedom of speech in Ukraine. We’d like to be optimistic and remain hopeful for some change. Specialized international agencies − the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media and a number of NGOs – have also noted non-compliance with legislative requirements.”

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