Report of the Committee on Freedom of Speech regarding personal security and independent activities of Ukrainian journalists presented in Parliament by MP Nestor Shufrych, Opposition Platform – For Life party
The issues of personal security and independent activity of Ukrainian journalists are more relevant today than ever. I want to note – it is very symbolic that our hearings almost coincided with the international day of the end of impunity for crimes against journalists. Indeed, one of the most important components certifying the authority of a country is the state of freedom of speech and the development of the media.
In 1992, the journalist Vadym Boyko was killed. From 1993 to 2019 more than 60 journalists were killed. It turns out that Ukraine only formally headed for European integration and the adoption of European values. Today, cases of forceful pressure on journalists, unfortunately, have become common in our country. 92% of crimes against media workers go unpunished. Only every twelfth case of attacks on journalists reaches the court. And the defendants, as a rule, even after beating and breaking expensive equipment get off with fines of about 40 USD. I can say that our legislation protects the main democratic freedoms of the media quite reliably. But this is only on paper. In real life, law enforcement officers, unfortunately, are inactive. I remind you that an attack on a journalist or threats against him is equivalent to an attack on law enforcement officers. Today, journalists can be compared with investigators, and indeed, the fate of all segments of the population, and sometimes the whole country, depends on their investigations, on their words.
I demand to introduce severe punishment for obstructing their activities. At the same time, the Committee on Freedom of Speech will further demand personal responsibility for each word from each journalist and expect this from you as representatives of the 4th power. A media worker should present only objective facts. Our citizens need to be taught to distinguish fakes from the truth. In addition, it is necessary to increase the media literacy of future journalists. In universities, they must clearly know their rights, journalistic ethics and responsibility.
But at today’s hearing, we raise the issue of law enforcement agencies’ inaction in cases of protection of the media representatives. What is the problem when everything is clearly spelled out in the law? And everything is very simple and therefore terrible. Our law enforcement officers are reluctant to respond to statements of journalists about threats, and when it comes to beating, they do not regard this as an attack on a journalist, but qualify it as hooliganism
May 4 in Cherkasy the journalist Komarov was attacked. He spent 46 days in a coma, and without regaining consciousness, passed away. To date, no customers have been found to kill the journalist Oles Buzina. A month before his death, he talked about the threats he received. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and representatives of the United States and the OSCE urged to find killers and customers. Subsequently, Ukrainian law enforcement authorities detained three suspects in the murder, but soon they were all free. Things did not go any further. The case of Pavlo Sheremet has not yet been solved. The indicative, cynical murder was quickly reacted outside of Ukraine – in Belarus and Russia, where the journalist lived and worked. Foreign media wrote about the crime, it was condemned by foreign leaders and politicians. The assassination of Kateryna Handziuk. Despite the promises of the heads of the Internal Ministry and the General Prosecutor’s Office, there were no shifts in the case. Customers of the crime are still free.
According to statistics from the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, most often mediaworkers suffer from attacks by officials and MPs. In second place are police officers and employees of other law enforcement agencies. At the same time, it is difficult to give an example when an official’s attempt to shut up a journalist in a country ended in a victory of a journalist.
The leader in terms of freedom in the world is Norway. Ukraine is in 102nd place. The level of freedom of speech can determine the level of democracy in the country. The purpose of our hearings is to draw attention to this glaring issue. Our working group made a number of recommendations regarding changes in the law enforcement system, recommendations and guidelines for journalists themselves. Our goal is to create conditions for the development of independent and at the same time responsible journalism in Ukraine.