Poroshenko’s Re­venge


Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko on March 27 signed into law a mea­sure that de­liv­ers a se­vere blow to anti-cor­rup­tion ac­tivists and free speech, ac­cord­ing to in­ter­na­tional and na­tional ex­perts.

Ac­cord­ing to var­i­ous in­ter­pre­ta­tions of the vague and am­bigu­ous amend­ments to the in­come dec­la­ra­tion law, they re­quire ac­tivists of anti-cor­rup­tion non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions, their con­trac­tors, donors, in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ists and po­ten­tially even anti-cor­rup­tion protesters to file pub­licly ac­ces­si­ble elec­tronic as­set dec­la­ra­tions, sim­i­lar to those now re­quired of state of­fi­cials.

Peo­ple’s Front lawmaker Te­tiana Chorno­vol, who in­tro­duced the amend­ments, along with Poroshenko and their sup­port­ers, claim that the leg­is­la­tion will in­crease the trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity of NGOs.

They ar­gue that they are in line with Western prac­tices, al­though the Kyiv Post has found that this ar­gu­ment does not stand up to scru­tiny.

Given Ukraine’s ex­tremely politi­cized and cor­rupt law en­force­ment, the amend­ments pro­vide vast scope for abuse, and could be used to fabri­cate po­lit­i­cal cases against the

1 Dec­la­ra­tions for anti-cor­rup­tion ac­tivists im­prove their ac­count­abil­ity and in­crease so­ci­ety’s trust in NGOs.

2 Ukraine is fol­low­ing the pro­gres­sive ex­pe­ri­ence of the United States and Euro­pean coun­tries like Latvia, Ro­ma­nia and Por­tu­gal, where top of­fi­cials of NGOs dis­close their in­come.

3 The move in­tro­duces civ­i­lized forms of elec­tronic dec­la­ra­tions and will pre­vent con­flicts of in­ter­est at NGOs.

4 This is a tool to make civil so­ci­ety health­ier and get rid of “fake” anti-cor­rup­tion ac­tivists.

5 The dec­la­ra­tions are use­ful for for­eign donors be­cause they in­crease NGOs’ ac­count­abil­ity to donors.

6 The dec­la­ra­tions are not a tool of po­lit­i­cal pres­sure on NGOs and do not re­duce their in­de­pen­dence from the gov­ern­ment.

7 The new rules only ap­ply to top of­fi­cials of NGOs and do not af­fect their rank-and-file mem­bers.

8 The dec­la­ra­tions do not equate NGO em­ploy­ees with state of­fi­cials, be­cause they do not ban them from re­ceiv­ing gifts or be­ing em­ployed else­where.

9 Top NGO of­fi­cials will only have to file dec­la­ra­tions in 2018. 10The amend­ments could not have been ve­toed, be­cause oth­er­wise 169,000 rankand-file soldiers would have been re­quired to file dec­la­ra­tions.

Anti-cor­rup­tion ac­tivists on April 13, 2016 protest against a law that they say would give gov­ern­ment ex­ces­sive pow­ers in con­fis­cat­ing as­sets of peo­ple con­victed of crimes. Nearly a year later, the in­tro­duc­tion of as­set dec­la­ra­tions for ac­tivists, passed by parliament and signed into law by Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko on March 27, is seen as re­venge. Ukraine’s ro­bust civil so­ci­ety is con­sid­ered to be one of the na­tion’s great­est strengths. (Volodymyr Petrov)

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