Delivered by Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the International Organizations in Vienna at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on 27 November 2014
We welcome the Representative on Freedom of the Media, Ms. Dunja Mijatović, back to the Permanent Council and thank her for the comprehensive overview of her activities, presented in the Regular Report “Issues raised with participating States” for the period from June to November 2014.
We reiterate our full support for the mandate of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media and take this opportunity to commend her dedicated efforts on the media related issues across the OSCE region.
Strengthening freedom of the media, including the safety of journalists, is a priority for Ukraine.
We appreciate Ms. Mijatović’s visits to Ukraine in 2014 in order to collect objective information regarding the media situation in the country. In particular, we appreciate RFoM’s monitoring of the media situation in the eastern Ukraine and in the occupied Crimea, where the journalists face ongoing intimidation and threats and committed crimes remain without due investigation.
The Russian aggression against my country undermines the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the entire OSCE space and poses significant threats to the freedom of expression, freedom of the media and safety of journalists in Ukraine.
The RFoM’s Regular Report convincingly and factually demonstrates that numerous cases of violence against members of the media continue to be committed by Russia-backed illegal armed groups in Donbas, as well as authorities exercising de facto control in the occupied Crimea. Murders, physical assaults, kidnappings, intimidation and threats against journalists are among most grave human rights’ violations there. Moreover, the ongoing hostilities and violations of the cease-fire regime by militants in Ukraine’s east continue to jeopardize the safety of journalists in Donbass, where Ukrainian TV channels had been long ago illegally cut-off and replaced by state television channels originating from the Russian Federation.
The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission’s reports fully concur with such assessment of RFoM noting that the space for freedom of expression in Crimea has further shrunk due to the activities of the so-called authorities, and the working conditions of media professionals in Donetsk and Luhansk regions remain dire due to the violations committed by the illegal armed groups.
Against this backdrop we continue to witness a real information war of Russian state-controlled media aimed at destroying peace and security in Ukraine. Anti-Ukrainian falsifications by the Russian media defy norms of journalistic ethics and human morality, crudely incite inter-ethnic hatred. The Russian state media are being widely utilized by the Russian authorities to disseminate propaganda, incite violence and promote aggressive nationalism and chauvinism, which runs counter to a number of the OSCE principles and commitments, including those of the 2002 Porto Document.
We condemn the footage of 30 October 2014 from Donetsk, shown on Russian TV, where the Russian actor Porechenkov was firing a machine gun at Ukrainian positions while wearing a helmet clearly marked with a “Press” insignia. We deplore that the Russian authorities maintain their usual silence on such unacceptable incidents.
We urge the Russian Federation to abide by its OSCE commitments, in particular on combating hate speech, and to take the necessary measures to prevent the abuse of the media and information technology for terrorist purposes.
The current Russian aggression against my country and dire circumstances for the media in the occupied Crimea and conflict-affected areas of Donbass cannot be seen in isolation from the media freedom regress in Russia over years.
With over three hundred deaths and disappearances of journalists in Russia since 1993, where in most cases the perpetrators have not been brought to justice, the Russian Federation remains one of the most dangerous places for journalists in the OSCE region with the highest number of journalists brutally attacked and killed in the past 15 years. The few Russian journalists and media outlets who attempt to objectively report on the events in eastern Ukraine are attacked, harassed and threatened.
Moreover, the Russian authorities continue to impose severe legislative restrictions, which negatively affect media plurality and threaten free flow of information, despite numerous warnings of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media. Among those the amendments to the Russia’s Criminal Code that further increase government control of the Internet, the amendments to the Law on Advertising that lead to undue media concentration in the hands of a few monopolies, as well as amendments to the Law on Mass Media lowering foreign ownership share in media outlets.
We invite the Representative on Freedom of the Media to give due attention to those issues threatening freedom of the media in Russia and beyond.
We are convinced that Basel Ministerial Council Meeting next week offers participating States an opportunity to give a response to the current challenges to human dignity and security in the OSCE region, in particular by addressing the respect to and promotion of fundamental freedoms, including those of expression and media.
We commend the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media initiative to organize an event on the topic of “Freedom of Expression for Tolerance and Non-Discrimination” on 18 December 2014. We hope that recommendations of the event would contribute to finding understanding on how to counter propaganda, which is used as an instrument of modern warfare. Among many freedoms people are entitled to in a democratic society, one must be freedom from propaganda. It is important that this very serious problem was duly reflected in today’s presentation by the Representative on Freedom of the Media.
The Government of Ukraine recognizes the fundamental importance of freedom of expression as a core element of democracy and is fully committed to safeguard and promote media freedom in the country.
The Ukrainian legislation already incorporates a number of laws setting a solid legal framework to ensure media freedom in Ukraine. With the adoption in April 2014 of a Public Broadcasting Law in Ukraine, the Verkhovna Rada introduced international standards of public service broadcasting and institutionally reinforced media freedom in the country. On 7 November 2014, within the implementation of this law, the Ukrainian Government established a National Public Television and Radio Broadcasting Company of Ukraine.
We strongly condemn all attacks against journalists and fully share the view that journalists’ safety must be guaranteed at all times. The Ukrainian side takes seriously all issues raised by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Ms. Dunja Mijatović in her Report and gives due attention to the comprehensive and impartial investigation of the cases of violence and intimidation of members of the media.
We emphasize that the overall media freedom situation in the affected regions of Ukraine and the steps undertaken by the Ukrainian Government to protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms should be perceived against the backdrop of the security challenges stemming from the aggressive actions and subversion pursued by the Russian Federation towards Ukraine, including through support to illegal armed groups in eastern Ukraine.
Let me conclude by reiterating the Ukrainian Government’s commitment to further safeguard and promote media freedom and protection of journalists in the country in accordance with the relevant OSCE commitments and international standards.
We would like to assure Ms. Mijatović of our continued commitment to cooperate fully with her and her able team.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.