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.
Update: Appeal Lost
5th September 2010. Based on article
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.
Update: At Supreme Court
25th December 2010. See article
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.
Update: Court follows government line
1st February 2011. See article
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.