Zelensky signs the controversial News Media Regulations

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine on Thursday signed into law a bill expanding the government’s regulatory power to the media, a measure that journalist organizations have warned could erode the government’s right to regulate the media. press freedom in this country.

While some of the more stringent provisions of the law have been relaxed in response to criticism, serious concerns about the independence of the regulator remain, local and international media groups say. learned on Friday, noting that they are still reviewing the details of the 279-page final law.

The law expands the authority of Ukraine’s state broadcasting regulator, the National Radio and Television Council, to cover print and online media. Earlier drafts gave the regulator the power to fine media outlets, revoke their licenses, temporarily block certain online media outlets without a court order and require platforms Social media and search giants like Google remove content that violates the law, Ukrainian media reported.

Mr. Zelensky, whose administration has been accused of undermining press freedom in recent years, ordered the drafting of legislation to strengthen media regulation in 2019.

The measure was passed by Ukraine’s parliament earlier this month, along with a series of other bills that lawmakers say is intended to help the country meet the EU’s legislative conditions for membership. pellets. The bills include measures to protect the rights of minorities.

But Ukrainian journalists and international press freedom groups have voiced warnings about the media bill as it passed Parliament, saying it goes beyond what the European Union demanded and accusing the government of using membership as an excuse to gain more control of the press.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a non-profit group that defends press freedom around the world, has called on Ukrainian lawmakers to drop the bill in September, saying it tightens “government control”. government for information at a time when citizens need it most”.

The Confederation of European Journalists, whose secretary-general called an earlier draft law “worthy of the worst dictatorships”, on Friday said the law remained at odds with natural standards. because the European press because the independence of the state media regulator, whose members are appointed by the president and Parliament, cannot be guaranteed.

The federation’s general secretary, Ricardo Gutiérrez said: “Ukraine will show its commitment to Europe by promoting a free and independent media, not by establishing control over the media. state trust.

The National Union of Journalists of Ukraine said there was a lack of transparency when the draft law was amended, arguing that the changes were made during closed-door meetings of parliamentary committees and members of the media as well. as the public does not have enough time to respond.

The coalition warned in a statement issued before Ukraine’s parliament voted to pass the bill that the law would erode freedoms that “distinguish Ukraine’s social system from the Russian dictatorship.” The union did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday after Mr. Zelensky signed the bill into law.

The main legal body of the Ukrainian Parliament also noted in an analysis published earlier this month that it had little time to consider changes to the bill and that the language of the bill was not fully considered. enough to lead to censorship.

Ukrainian officials have denied allegations that the EU demands are being used as a cover to curb press freedom. They say that significant amendments to the draft law have been made in consultation with news media experts and argue that sweeping changes to Ukraine’s media law are long overdue.

Yevheniia Kravchuk, deputy chair of Parliament’s information policy committee, said: “Of course, this bill is even broader than the EU directive because we need to change and modernize our media laws. , which hasn’t changed in 16 years. announced after the bill is passed. “It was passed when there was no internet.”

At least one Ukrainian organization focused on press freedom, the Kyiv-based Institute of Mass Communication, said on Thursday that it was satisfied with the revised law but would oversee its implementation. The main concern of the organization remains to ensure the independence of the media regulator.

CEO Oksana Romaniuk said: “To improve it, we will need to introduce amendments to the Constitution, which unfortunately cannot be done during martial law. “That’s one of our main plans for the future.”


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