The law “on oligarchs” is vague and does not pose a special threat to either the media or the oligarchs themselves – IMI

On September 23, the Verkhovna Rada passed Bill 995599 (on oligarchs). In particular, it should separate the representatives and beneficiaries of big business from the influence on the media. However, experts note that the scope of this law is quite vague and it is still difficult to say that it threatens the oligarchs. On the other hand, there is no threat to freedom of speech either.

Media lawyer Roman Golovenko believes, writes IMI, that the law after its adoption will not particularly affect the work of the media.

But there are a few things to note when you consider the amendments made between the first and second readings: a vague definition of “online media,” for example.

One edit removes the remark that a social media page is not online media. If before the definitions were still vague – the media was considered any website with a regularly updated news feed – now the clarity has become even less.  

Media lawyers believe that this ambiguity is unlikely to affect all online publications at once. But in the future, due to the constant growth of the role of the Internet, blurred frameworks may cause disputes between government agencies and potential oligarchs. 

The National Council of Ukraine on Television and Radio Broadcasting has been tasked with verifying the integrity of media buyers’ reputations. IMI believes that the National Council has a slightly different competence. And this should be done by another, more powerful body with the appropriate powers. It is possible that this problem will be solved by cooperation of the National Council with other state bodies.

In essence, the adopted law requires oligarchs to declare themselves in much the same way as civil servants. This will increase the workload of their lawyers, as a large business group may include hundreds of companies whose corporate rights are owned directly or indirectly by the oligarchs. On the other hand, high-ranking officials will be obliged to record their contacts with the oligarchs. 

In general, IMI experts believe that this law does not pose clear threats to freedom of speech. The government still had some leverage over the oligarchs through their business. And it is unlikely that the law threatens the oligarchs themselves. In addition, unwanted funding can still be hidden, so “the realism of these provisions of the Law is in question.”

It will be recalled that on September 23, in the second reading, the Verkhovna Rada passed the presidential bill №5599 on oligarchs . 279 people’s deputies voted for the bill

After the law comes into force, oligarchs will be citizens who simultaneously meet the following criteria:

  • participate in political life;
  • have a significant impact on the media;
  • the citizen is the ultimate beneficial owner of the business entity, which holds a monopoly position in the market and for one year in a row maintains or strengthens this position;
  • has assets of more than 1 million subsistence minimums set for able-bodied citizens.

The National Security and Defense Council will determine who the oligarch is after a request from the Government, the NBU, the SBU, the AMCU or a member of the National Security and Defense Council.

Persons recognized as oligarchs are prohibited from making contributions (directly or indirectly through other persons) in support of political parties,  financing  any political  agitation  or  holding  rallies  and  demonstrations  with  political  slogans,  being a buyer (beneficiary of the buyer) in the privatization of large privatization objects. .

The National Security and Defense Council may exclude a person from the register of oligarchs on the basis of an application of a person included in the register, if he meets less than three criteria defined by this bill.

The law was criticized by the opposition and Rada Speaker Dmitry Razumkov, who sent it to the Venice Commission. Its conclusion is due in December this year.

The Presidential  Bill on the Oligarchs was supported by the Council in first reading  on July 1, 2021. Then 275 people’s deputies voted for the document. 

On September 17, the profile  committee recommended that the parliament pass a bill on oligarchs in the second reading  and in general. 13 edits out of 1271 submitted were taken into account.

Photo: Flickr



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