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Freedom Of The Press In Ukraine, Or Why Maidan's Democratic Legacy Needs Protection

23/05/2017 15:41

Although I am ethnically part-Ukrainian, as a Russian-citizen I would think twice before writing anything critical of the Ukrainian government. However, some recent laws and presidential decrees issued by Poroshenko sireously undermine Ukraine's credibility as a democratic society and a deeply worrying for anyone concerned with the global onslaught against the freedoms of the press, the UK included.

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A law passed today to force TV channels to broadcast at least 75% of their content in Ukrainian is the culmination of a string of aggressive legislation incompatible with the values of democracy that has been recently passed by the Rada. While the law itself should be lauded for including Crimean Tatar in the 75% quota, i.e. recognising it as a legitimate alternative to the Ukrainian language in broadcast, it fails to include other officially-recognised regional languages such as Moldovan, Romani, Yiddish, etc.

Incidentally, Ukraine is a signatory to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, but no systematic attempts have been made to promote the use of these languages, even in the case of Crimean Tatar.

Even if those languages were included, trying to limit editorial independence of media that is privately owned (i.e. receives no public funds) is in itself a threat to democracy and human rights, as it clearly interferes with the citrizens' fundamental freedoms of speech, thought and private life - all of which are guaranteed by the Ukrainian Constitution and Ukraine's international, obligations under the European Convention for Human Rights.

In the context of Poroshenko's increasingly Putin-style rule (i.e. use of presidential decrees to pass draconian legislation, mounting corruption and disregard for International law and obligations), this can only be seen as an attempt to limit the socio-policitcal debate in line with the current government's political preferences. In effect, this signals the end of multiparty democracy, which is incompatible with the use of the state apparatus to institutionalise a particular ideology as the state's ideology (whether this ideology is Communist, Socialist or ethnolinguistic).

What worries me most is that the ongoing erosion of democratic freedoms in Ukraine seriously undermined the credibility of the Ukrainian democratic project by reversing the democratic progress made during the Maidan protests, which could force Ukraine's international allies to reconsider their support in its struggle against Russia.

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