Comment of Chairperson of Supervisory board of Foundation for protection of freedom of speech Hanna Herman concerning pressure on ukrainian Dom tv channel

The recent news about the journalists of another Ukrainian TV channel Dom (“Home”) being pressured by the authorities is yet another proof that under Zelensky’s regime, freedom of speech continues to be severely oppressed in Ukraine. The demand to provide as much positive information about the president’s actions as possible reminds of the times of Brezhnev’s stagnation, when the saying “Lenin does not spoil the newspaper” was popular in the Soviet party press.

Today in case of the TV channel Dom “Zelensky does not spoil the newspaper”. That’s what Ukrainian authorities believe. According to the Office of the President, our society “can be spoilt” by independent media because they call things by their proper names: that the so called “Big Construction” is nothing more than a big theft, “Vovina Thousand” (promise to give UAH 1,000 to a vaccinated person) is nothing more than a populist ploy, and statements that President Zelensky is making incredible efforts to bring peace to Donbas are actually a dead end to the negotiations based on the Minsk agreements.

At the same time, you will not hear a single word from the Office of the President about why opposition media are shut down as a result of an extrajudicial decision by the Council of the National Security and Defense, and not the court, why there are no court verdicts against radicals persecuting independent journalists, why the information space of Ukraine is filled with fakes that disorient society. There is no answer to many things.

The Ukrainian authorities, acting solely in their own political interests, do not care about free media. In February this year, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, violating the principle of the rule of law and without any trial, authorized the closure of four TV channels – 112 Ukraine, NewsOne, ZIK and later on – First Independent, which provided news to millions of viewers, including opinions of opposition politicians. These channels maintained a balance of opinions, thus demonstrating their adherence to the standards of journalism in a democratic society.

Also very recently, the Ukrainian public broadcaster, the TV channel UA:Pershiy, accused the Office of the President of Ukraine of “longstanding and rigid” ultimatums regarding the participation of MPs in television programs, and also of “imposing conditions on the editorial boards of the television channel.” In addition, Radio Liberty almost got included to the list of media outlets that suffered from the actions of the Ukrainian authorities, and only a significant public outcry forced the authorities to stop protecting the Chairman of the Board of a state bank and its employees, who attacked the crew of the “Schemes” investigative journalism program. Finally, by illegally imposing sanctions, the authorities stopped the work of a number of popular Internet media, in particular Strana.ua and Shariy.net, and currently they are under the threat of full destruction. 

It is noteworthy that the President of Ukraine has done little to nothing to guarantee the safety of journalists. This year there has been a record number of attacks on media workers and this trend is not going down – the perpetrators are held accountable only in exceptional cases.

Therefore it is not surprising that Ukraine is facing a “ninth wave” of political crisis. Where there is no real freedom of speech, there is no normal dialogue between the authorities and the opposition, which means that a vacuum is created, which radical elements quickly fill with their presence.

The continuation of these trends in Ukraine’s information policy could have disastrous consequences. We are already observing them in part, but the authorities pretend that nothing threatening is going on.

Unfortunately, this is not the case, and the process seems to have acquired all the signs of being irreversible.