Cen­sor­ship threats

Kyiv Post - - Opinion/business -

There is a pop­u­lar im­age on the in­ter­net: a photo of an el­derly woman at a women’s rights rally, bear­ing a poster that reads: “I can’t be­lieve I still have to protest this sh*t.”

We could say the same when it comes to Ukraine’s au­thor­i­ties try­ing to cen­sor jour­nal­ists or limit their rights: we can’t be­lieve we still need to de­fend free­dom of speech. At least once a year, some­one in power comes out with a “hot new idea” to ei­ther cen­sor the in­ter­net, or crim­i­nal­ize li­bel, or do some­thing else along those lines.

Right now, three dan­ger­ous me­dia-re­lated bills are sit­ting in par­lia­ment (see story on page 5), wait­ing to be con­sid­ered. All were drafted by rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the rul­ing coali­tion.

The new­est seeks to crim­i­nal­ize the spread of fake news, in­ten­tional or not.

Mean­while, Ukrainian jour­nal­ists are be­ing re­minded all the time how dan­ger­ous their pro­fes­sion is in this coun­try — be it by the an­niver­saries of jour­nal­ists’ mur­ders or by phys­i­cal at­tacks and reg­u­lar ha­rass­ment.

On March 20, three jour­nal­ists from Nashi Groshi in­ves­tiga­tive project were at­tacked as they were film­ing in a for­est north of Kyiv. They were il­le­gally de­tained by pri­vate guards of pro-Rus­sian politi­cian Vik­tor Medved­chuk, who has a man­sion near the for­est. The po­lice didn’t in­ter­vene when the guards phys­i­cally as­saulted the jour­nal­ists, ac­cord­ing to them. The as­sault is one of the dozens if not hun­dreds of sim­i­lar cases in re­cent years. The at­tacks have be­come al­most rou­tine, a fix­ture on the news feed.

Too many peo­ple in Ukrainian power cir­cles are poi­soned with the au­thor­i­tar­ian legacy of the Soviet Union. They can’t grasp the idea that the press can be in­de­pen­dent, writ­ing freely about the most pow­er­ful peo­ple. They need to ac­cept it, sooner rather than later: free­dom of speech isn’t an ex­otic West­ern con­cept. It’s a uni­ver­sal hu­man right.

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