Delivered by Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the International Organizations in Vienna, at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on 10 March 2016
We welcome the Representative on Freedom of the Media, Ms. Dunja Mijatović, back to the Permanent Council and thank her for presentation of the comprehensive report on media related issues across the OSCE region.
At the outset, we wish to express high appreciation of the close cooperation established between the Ukrainian authorities and Ms. Mijatović in addressing a variety of issues related to the implementation of the relevant OSCE commitments.
The Ukrainian side gives serious attention to all issues raised by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Ms. Dunja Mijatović in her reports and takes consistent measures with a view to further enhancing freedom of the media and strengthening the safety of journalists in line with the OSCE commitments.
Following a number of important legislative steps taken by the Ukrainian authorities in 2015 to foster media freedom and protection of journalists, in February 2016 the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine passed the amendments to the Criminal Code which increase protections for professional activities of journalists. The amendments include sanctions for illegal seizure of materials and equipment of journalists, unlawful denial of access to information, as well as other forms of obstruction of journalists’ legitimate professional activities.
Moreover, in February 2016 the President of Ukraine established a Council on Protection of Professional Activities of Journalists and Freedom of Speech, an advisory body tasked to facilitate an effective dialogue between state bodies, media organizations and civil society regarding the prevention of obstruction or impediments to legitimate professional activities of journalists. The Council will also monitor the situation in this field and elaborate relevant proposals in line with the European standards.
The Council includes the representatives of media NGOs and civil society, the National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine, the Presidential Administration, the National Police, the Prosecutor General's Office, the Security Service of Ukraine and others.
We attach high importance to continuous monitoring by RFoM of the media freedom situation in occupied areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea under illegal occupation of the Russian Federation.
The violence against journalists and curtailment of media freedom became common in these Russia-occupied territories, where journalists are threatened and kidnapped, and free media outlets censored and banned.
We thank Ms. Mijatović for her constant attention to facilitating the release of Maria Varfolomeyeva - a Ukrainian journalist from «Svobodny Reporter», who remained in captivity of Russia-supported militants of the so-called “LPR” since January 2015. She was exchanged and released on 3 March 2016.
Unfortunately, all independent media were forced to close and to leave the conflict-affected regions. Instead, these temporary occupied territories have been subjected to forceful Russian state propaganda, inciting hatred and violence to justify Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
We strongly condemn such actions, which contravene numerous OSCE principles and commitments, including the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, the 1994 Budapest Document and the 2002 Porto Document. It is evident that Russia uses state media and propaganda as a war instrument against Ukraine.
We fully concur with the assessment that propaganda for war and hatred aims at the very foundation of the OSCE principle of comprehensive security in Europe, and that “the use of propaganda in times of conflict ... fuels and contributes to the escalation of conflict”.
We commend the RFoM’s work, which resulted in a comprehensive analysis and important recommendations on eradicating propaganda in the OSCE region, produced in the Non-paper «Propaganda and Freedom of the Media», as well as those presented following the OSCE-wide Expert Meeting “Propaganda for war and hatred and media freedom” held in Vienna on 12 February 2016.
We share the recommendations, in particular, that:
- governments and political leaders should refrain from funding and using propaganda, including to abstain from sponsoring online trolls or engage in other covert media operations;
- governments should develop early warning mechanisms for violent hate speech and propaganda for war in the media;
- propaganda should be generally uncovered and condemned by governments, civil society and international organizations.
We view it extremely important that participating States make use of these valuable recommendations in the efforts to enhance appropriate legal mechanisms and practices, as well as in taking practical steps to efficiently counter propaganda.
We continue to see specific value in elaborating the OSCE norms on freedom from propaganda.
Russia’s aggression outside its borders is accompanied by further clamp down on human rights and fundamental freedoms internally, including by targeting freedom of expression, media and journalists.
Russian journalists continue to face physical danger in the course of their work. Last year the international non-profit organisation “Committee to Protect Journalists” published its 2015 Global Impunity Index covering the period between September 1, 2005, and August 31, 2015. It identified 14 countries worldwide where at least five journalists have been murdered without a single perpetrator being convicted. Among these 14 countries there is one OSCE participating State – it is the Russian Federation.
Only yesterday a group of human rights defenders and journalists from Russia, Sweden and Norway was attacked and beaten as they were on their way from Ingushetia to Chechnya. Their minivan was burned down.
Inadequate reaction to crimes against journalists breeds a climate of fear and injustice not only for those subject to these attacks, but also for the society as a whole.
The Russian state-owned media instigate hatred against Ukrainians to deliberately create an image of enemy and justify the aggression. Last week all Russian federal TV channels refrained from reporting on a chilling murder that took place in Moscow, arguing for concern about the viewers. However, the same channels have produced over the past two years, without any scruples, many blood-chilling fakes about Ukraine. The fake about a crucifixion of a boy in Slovyansk has come to epitomise these criminal practices.
According to the 2016 Freedom in the World Report by the NGO “Freedom House”, propaganda and political repression over the past two years in Russia have had a chilling effect on open and free discussion, which is exacerbated by growing state efforts to control expression. Only a small and shrinking number of radio stations and print outlets with limited reach offer a diverse range of viewpoints. At the end of 2015, Russia was blocking access to approximately 20,000 websites, according to the independent group Roskomsvoboda. The Russian authorities also employ numerous “trolls” to disrupt online discussions and intimidate users.
The Russian Federation significantly fails to comply with its OSCE commitments. We encourage the Russian authorities to use the valuable expertise of the RFoM as assistance in bridging the significant gaps in implementation of numerous OSCE commitments, including in the area of safety of journalists and media freedom.
We take this opportunity to thank you for your professionalism, dedication and indeed tireless efforts, over the last six years, in promoting across the OSCE area an environment where the media can work freely, effectively and without fear.
We commend, Ms. Mijatović, your leadership and persistence as OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media. We look forward to continuing our close co-operation and wish you every success in all your future endeavours.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.