Journalists Activity Control: How to Protect Journalists’ Rights during Pre-election Campaigns


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Journalists Activity Control: How to Protect Journalists’ Rights during Pre-election Campaigns


02-12-2009

Local authorities use the law in their own interest, they violate journalists’ professional duties to gather and spread an information and people’s right to receive it.


  • Problems with Accreditation for Mass-Media


Accreditation of journalists – it’s a procedure which is established by law and it gives to state local authorities to regulate and to define mass-media, which can highlight local authoritis’ activity and events.

To help journalists with accreditation – it’s a duty of state and local authorities (article 3 Law of Ukraine “On the Order of Media Coverage of Sate and Local Authorities’ Activity in Ukraine”, article 27 Law of Ukraine “On Print Media (Press) in Ukraine” and article 45 “On television and broadcasting”). They are to inform about all planed events, to provide verbatim records, protocols and other necessary materials for journalists.

According to these norms, state and local authorities don’t have a right to refuse media’s or journalists’ request for accreditation: (1) there is no single reason to refuse in giving accreditation, besides (2) the law doesn’t empower any state or local authority to do so.

But on the local level the procedure of accreditation is often used by authorities not to let dissenting mass media to visit their official events.

Common reasons for refusal are following: the absence of all necessary documents for accreditation (it’s common that local authorities ask for additional documents); official request of mass-media doesn’t satisfy the requirements of law, while there are no requirements according to Ukrainian legislation concerning accreditation for journalists on the local levels.

The main goal of such actions: to prevent dissenting mass-media from certain event, to play for time, to create circumstances, which can prevent journalists from doing their duty, to show, who is in charge in the region and to take down a peg for all journalists.

All sessions of local and cities councils are open for public (paragraph 16 of the article 46 of the Ukrainian Law “On Local Government in Ukraine”). That is why the procedure of accreditation which is held for dissenting media by local and cities authorities is shameful.

It means that any citizen, in spite of his place of residence and occupation, has a right to be present during sessions of local authorities and to monitor their activity during such events.

But a lot of journalists receive refusals in accreditation on local level and they can be physically prevented from attending official events. As an example the article 32 of the Illichivsk City Council’s Regulation can be used, which foreseen that all journalists who don’t have accreditation: those who didn’t send a petition, who didn’t prove that they are journalists according to their education (diploma) – they can’t be present during sessions to fulfill their professional duties as representatives of mess-media. It’s against the law (article 26 of the Ukrainian Law “On Print Media (Press) in Ukraine”.

Once the Mayor of Illichivsk Hmelnuk Valerii explained very directly the official position of bureaucrats on the session in Odessa district: “Probably city council doesn’t want to see you during its sessions?”

This problem can be solved if some legislative changes can be made in the Ukrainian Law “On the Order of Media Coverage of Sate and Local Authorities’ Activity in Ukraine”, “On Print Media (Press) in Ukraine”, “On Television and Broadcasting”:


- the list of documents which have to be provided by journalists to receive an accreditation and the demands for such documents has to be clearly formed;

- all legal requirements concerning occupation or references from professional journalistic unions have to be out of law;

- to prohibit clearly and directly all accreditation refusals for local authorities;

- to foreseen journalists’ right to be present on all official events, which are held by local authorities in spite of accreditation.


  • Limited Excess for Some Deputies of Local Councils to Municipal Media


Municipal media in Ukraine often highlight only the position of those who are “in charge” in the region. Usually, there are no other views on the pages of such media outlets or in the air of TV companies. Kyiv, Mykolaiv, Truskavets, Illichivsk, Irpin, Kotsubynske – the list goes on.

All deputies of local councils have right of access to municipal media in order to inform about their official activity (paragraph 4 article 11 of the Law of Ukraine “On the Status of the Deputies of Local Councils”). But the managers of local municipal media use this norm of law in such a way that the representatives of opposition are disabled to inform the citizens of there region about their official activity and initiatives in time.

This problem can be solved if some legislative changes can be made in the Law of Ukraine “On the Status of the Deputies of Local Councils”. This right has to be realized on a common basis and it has to be forbidden for the management of municipal media to violate deputies’ right of access to municipal media. The law has to foreseen the responsibility and punishment for such a violation. Municipal media – are media-outlets of a territorial community, but not certain “masters” of the community.


  • The Absence of List with TV and Radio Journalists’ Rights in the Legislation


The rights and duties of journalists who work in press, including the right to visit local authorities with a possibility to gather information, to use free their equipment, are foreseen by the article 26 of the Law of Ukraine “On Print Media (Press) in Ukraine”.

But neither the law of Ukraine “On Television and Broadcasting”, nor any other law doesn’t have a list with of professional rights and duties of journalists who work on radio and TV. It complicates any protection of their rights in any conflict.

To solve this problem we propose to add a new article to the law of Ukraine “On Television and Broadcasting”, in which all rights and duties of journalists who work on TV and radio can be clearly defined.


  • The Pressure on Dissenting Journalists and Mass Media


Local bureaucrats can often speak with an air of offend and unethically towards dissenting journalists and mass media. They can threaten journalists publicly and without any hesitation. To threaten journalist – it’s a socially dangerous act with an aim to influence mass media coverage and to control the freedom of speech.

We propose to enlarge the disposition of article 171 of the Criminal Code and to foreseen the responsibility for any threatens to the address of journalists or any mass media.


  • Insecurity of Journalist


Journalists in Ukraine are protected by the law. Crimes against journalists are equated with crimes which are committed against law-enforcement authorities. Criminal responsibility is clearly legislated for preventing journalist’s professional activity

In spite of this, the quantity of news about criminal actions against journalists is growing and people are not surprised after such a news. It’s normal. It started from one singe Kalashnykov case, which was softpedaled. It continues with usual beating of journalists, who are on duty.

We can give the case in which Techynskyi, Hontar and Lutsenko suffered near the Sound-Recording House in Kyiv as an example. This appeal wasn’t taken even to the court in spite of active actions of Media Labor Union. Photos of criminals were published in Internet and police officers were the witnesses of this event.

Unfortunately, prosecutors and police can’t provide proper defense for journalists and to bring criminals to the court.

We propose to support the initiative of Media Labor Union and to create separate authority which will be empowered on the state level to assert journalists’ rights. As an alternative media labor unions can be empowered to do so.

(It’s a text of Andrii Nechyporenko’s speech who represents on the public hearings in the Supreme Council Kyiv Independent Media Labor Union as Law Firms’ attorney-at-law).




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