Ukrainian journalists with the Television News Service (TSN), a new program that is broadcast on the 1+1 television channel, have complained that they are being censored during preparation of news materials.
The journalists made the complaint in an open letter posted on the internet website of the Telekritika publication.
We, the journalists of TSN, want to state that censorship is being introduced on the 1+1 television channel. We have been prohibited from covering certain issues and events. Our news materials containing criticism of the current authorities are being
taken off air for political reasons, the journalists said in the letter.
The journalists said that they wrote the letter because they understood their responsibility to the society and because they valued their own reputation and refused to go outside the moral framework.
We do not want to be farmhands and propagandists. For us, freedom of speech is not just empty sounds by the foundation of our progression. This is specifically why we re are announcing that we categorically disagree with pressure on freedom of speech,
the journalists said in the letter.
We are demanding an immediate end to the manual control of the Television News Service. We are demanding an end to the disgraceful practice of 'directives,' 'valuable instructions,' and bans on one topic or another. We are demanding a return of TSN to
the basic principles of journalism: objectiveness, balance, equal distance from all political forces
The journalists said they were considering the possibility of a one-day warning strike if their demands were ignored.
Dozens of Ukrainian journalists were wearing T-shirts reading stop censorship at a news conference by President Viktor Yanukovynch in Kiev.
Media concerns regarding freedom of speech are growing in Ukraine since President Yanukovynch's election.
The president assured the media that he shared their concerns. No-one is putting pressure on you or will put pressure on you, he claimed at the press conference.
He read a letter signed by several journalists and asked the security services and interior ministry to investigate the complaints. He even accepted one of the T-shirts via a bodyguard.
Ukrainian television journalists from the private 1+1 and STB channels issued a petition last month, complaining of an increase in censorship on certain subjects.
When Yanukovych was hit on the head last month by a gigantic wreath at a memorial ceremony, officials ordered journalists not to broadcast the footage. But the presidency later admitted they had overstepped the mark.
Reporters Without Borders condemns a Kiev court's decision on 8 June to cancel the licences of TV5 Kanal and TVi, two stations that are regarded as critical of President Viktor Yanukovych's administration, especial TVi, which regularly interviews
independent experts or opposition figures who openly criticise the government.
On 7 June, the eve of the court's decision, the journalists at TV 5 Kanal released the text of an open letter to the president claiming they were being harassed by the SBU, Ukraine's main security agency. Calling for the protection of their rights under
the constitution, they said they wanted to meet with Yanukovych to explain their fear that their station was about to be broken up.
Their fears were confirmed by the 8 June decision cancelling the allocation of TV broadcast frequencies announced on 27 January, several weeks before the current administration took office. The court, which issued its ruling in response to a legal appeal
by the Inter group, withdrew the licences of TV5 Kanal and TVi.
Reporters Without Borders voices its support for the two TV stations, their condemnation of an unprecedented and unacceptable conflict of interests and their call for Khoroshkovky to resign from some of his positions.
The multiple posts held by Khoroshkovky are incompatible in a democracy with the principles of freedom of expression and impartial regulation of the media. Reporters Without Borders also believes that is vital that the National Council of Television and
Radio Broadcasting should be impartial and free of external pressure.
Mykola Knyazhytsky, the head of TVi, and Ivan Adamchuk, the head of TV5 Kanal, said they would appeal against the court's decision.
The parliamentary committee for freedom of speech and information has called on the Verkhovna Rada to form a special commission to investigate cases of censorship and pressure on the freedom of speech, as well as cases of the blocking of the professional
activity of journalists.
The committee also proposed that the parliament hear reports by the heads of the TVi Channel and the Fifth TV Channel, representatives of the Inter group, Security Service Chief Valeriy Khoroshkovsky, and representatives of the National Council for
Television and Radio Broadcasting regarding the issues of the withdrawal of television frequencies allocated to the Fifth TV Channel and the TVi Channel.
This could take place even [on June 16]. If not, we will insist on hearing [these reports] by the end of the week, said the first deputy head of the committee, Andriy Shevchenko.
US ambassador to Ukraine John Tefft has warned Ukraine's authorities against a return to media censorship amid growing concerns over press freedoms.
There should be no going back to the old system of government pressure of journalists and media companies, Tefft said during a speech to a Kiev-based think tank.
He noted troubling reports of pressure on journalists and an attack on a regional newspaper editor as recent worrying signs: We must also recognise that some media companies practise self-censorship, which is equally destructive to the
principle of press freedom .
Press freedom in Ukraine is seen as one of the few lasting gains of the country's 2004 Orange Revolution that brought pro-Western leaders to power, who were in turn ousted by President Viktor Yanukovych in this year's elections.
Three Ukrainian television stations stopped broadcasting for an hour late Saturday, in what a protest against what they said was increasing political pressure on journalists.
5 Kanal, TVi and one regional television station are threatened with having their licences taken away, Kiev media reported.
The stations have accused the authorities of reintroducing press censorship. The strike comes amid widespread concerns that press freedom has deteriorated since pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych came to power in February.
On Tuesday the Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI), a media freedom watchdog, wrote an open letter to Yanukovych, saying it was alarmed at reports of an increase in the number of assaults against journalists and a failure to bring the
perpetrators of the attacks to justice.
It also noted an apparent blurring of the lines between government office and private media ownership and said it was particularly concerned about a Kiev court's decision to annul the allocation of broadcasting frequencies to two privately-run
TV channels: TVi and 5 Kanal.
Ukraine's media landscape could be reshaped after Channel 5 and TVi, two small stations providing the last vestiges of independent television journalism, lost a dispute over their frequencies.
A Kyiv appeals court ruled in favor of the U.A. Inter Media Group (Inter), the nation's largest television holding, upholding a lower court decision that analogue frequencies awarded to the station in January were obtained illegally.
At the time, the National Council for Television and Radio awarded Channel 5 with 26 and TVi with 33 analogue frequencies.
The Inter group, owned partly by State Security Service of Ukraine chief Valeriy Khoroshkovksy.
Both TVi and Channel 5 claim the court decision was unfair and marked a return to the era of censorship and political pressure on media, two hallmarks of ex-President Leonid Kuchma's authoritarian tenure from 1994-2005.
That's just what's happened. Two independent channels who managed to withstand political pressure were deprived of the licenses they were awarded within a totally legitimate competition, Mykola Kniazhytsky, TVi executive director said.
Both channels are preparing to contest the appeals court ruling in the High Administrative Court and in the European Court of Human Rights.
Ukraine's administrative supreme court met Tuesday in Kiev to examine the appeals of two independent television stations, TVi and 5 Kanal, against the removal of broadcast frequencies.
Pressure has been applied on the two privately owned stations since President Yunukovych took office in February. Since his election, the government has been accused of attempting to restrict freedom of the press by inducing pro-government censorship.
Some journalists have claimed that top government intelligence agents have been monitoring them.
TVi and 5 Kanal are currently appealing against Judge Nataliya Blazhivska's ruling on June 8 to invalidate the National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting's January 27 grant of additional frequencies to both stations. These frequencies would
ensure development and greater audience for both channels.
The decision was made in response to legal protests filed by Inter Media Group (IMG), the nation's largest broadcasting group, when the Broadcasting Council allocated 33 frequencies to TVi, 26 to 5 Kanal and only 20 to IMG's stations.
Reporters Without Borders condemns a ruling by the Kiev administrative supreme court on 26 January upholding a lower court's decision to withdraw the over-the-air broadcast frequencies that were assigned to two privately-owned TV stations, TVi and 5
Kanal, in January 2010.
The lower court's decision was issued on 8 June 2010 in response to a complaint by Inter Media Group. Ukraine's biggest broadcasting group, IMG is owned by Valeriy Khoroshkovsky, who also heads Ukraine's main domestic intelligence agency, the SBU, and is
a member of the Judiciary Supreme Council, which appoints and dismisses judges.
The appeal to the Kiev administrative supreme court was the last chance that TVi and 5 Kanal had to recover their frequencies by going to the Ukrainian courts. Ukraine's supreme court could in theory overturn the decision but the case would have to be
referred by the administrative supreme court (usually regarded as highest court in such matters) and that is highly unlikely.
TVi director-general Mykola Knyazhytsky and 5 Kanal's representative, Tetyana Malashenkova, say they now want to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
The 26 January ruling seems to confirm that the judicial authorities take their orders from the government, and that the government wants to reduce freedom of expression and the publicís access to information.
A banned Ukrainian television station, which had its broadcast frequencies cancelled after a court found in favour of supposed irregularities in the manner in which the stations were awarded their licences, has decided to defy the court ruling and
continue its terrestrial broadcasts.
Channel TVi called the action by the National Council of Ukraine on Television and Radio Broadcasting - which issues the licences - unfounded persecution .
TVi Chief Executive Mykola Kniazhytskyi said in a statement sent to the International Press Institute: In accordance with current legislation of Ukraine, we do not consider the decision of the National Council of Ukraine on Television and Radio
Broadcasting to revoke amendments to our license a sufficient cause for termination of our terrestrial broadcast. We will continue to broadcast Ö [and work] to prevent further imposition of censorship in Ukraine.
As the president of Ukraine inaugurated the global conference of the newspaper editors and publishers on Monday, he was heckled by the leading Ukrainian journalists who stood up to protest against the official censorship.
The presidential security guards interrupted and the protesting journalists in front of the international delegates, taking away placards from some journalists that read Stop Censorship .
Despite protest by the journalists, President Viktor Yanukovych continued his speech stressing entirely the opposite of his ongoing practice of crackdown on the media that is stopped from covering the activities of opposition parties, social and economic
problems, and criticism from the foreign politicians of the situation in Ukraine.
I can ensure you that the development of the freedom of speech and independent media will stay one of our main priorities in going forward as it is very important for our future. And we want to become a partner with you in ensuring this , he
Ukrainian journalists have protested outside the country's parliament against a bill which will will be used to muzzle the media. More than 100 journalists held up empty posters to highlight their concerns about censorship.
The bill, backed by the party led by President Viktor Yanukovych, calls for more severe punishment for defamation, including prison terms of up to five years. International watchdogs have criticized the measure as a government attempt to silence
Several leading Ukrainian newspapers and magazines have protested in recent days by publishing editions with blank covers.
The legislature is set to consider the bill in the final reading next week.
Ukraine's parliament has scrapped a defamation bill that could have seen journalists fined, banned from working or even jailed. The country's media had launched a vocal campaign to stop it becoming law.
Mustafa Nayem, a member of the Stop Censorship Movement, told euronews:
It wasn't to the government's advantage to press ahead because the image of the country would be tarnished and it could overshadow the election results.
Opposition MPs believe the draft law was ditched because it had become too much of a political hot potato leading up to the parliamentary poll on October 28th.