Journalists of the TV channel “Kievan Rus. KRT” held on July 30th a protest against censorship and the offensive on freedom of speech at the building of the National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting in Kiev. Right-wing radicals tried to disrupt the action.
As a representative of “KRT” told reporters, the TV channel learned from a message on the website of the National Council that today the issue of extending the KRT’s broadcasting license will be considered. According to it, “according to the law for the National Council, which is a constitutional body, they are obliged to warn our TV channel in writing three days before the day of consideration.” He added that the National Council should also have invited representatives of “KRT” to the meeting if they want to consider the issue of any sanctions, but this was not done. Therefore, the journalists decided to come to the building of the National Council and express their opinion.
The representative of the journalistic team noted that if the National Council does not renew the license, then lawsuits will follow in the Ukrainian courts. In addition, European partners will be involved so that Europe “can see what is happening with freedom of speech under the new President”.
As if to confirm the thesis that the country is not all okay concerning freedom of speech, the National Council was visited by radicals from the nationalist organisations “National Corpus“ and “C14“, who tried to disrupt the action of journalists. There were skirmishes, the police intervened. The nationalists then started to chant obscenities… in Russian. “I know the hand of Moscow! The fifth column is chanting slogans in Moskal language. Intellectuals, and where such persons are being caught,” ironically commented social media users on the Facebook page of journalist Vasily Muravitsky.
“We came out to show that the National Council violates the law and deprives the ‘KRT’ TV channel of its license. And we see that ‘National Corpus’ and ‘C14’ came to support the National Council. They are involved in what they are involved. In fact, they are fulfilling an order of authority. We see how ‘National Corpus’ supported the National Council. What can I say? Make your own conclusions,” said one of the organisers of the rally, journalist Dmitry Vasilets, to the Ukrainian “Strana” news agency.
“At the National Council for broadcasting, which was created as a discriminatory structure for censoring opposition media, employees of the ‘KRT’ TV channel met. They are being pressured for speaking positively about the Victory in the Great Patriotic War and negatively about the ‘Holy Maidan’,” said the journalist Pavel Volkov on his social network page. According to him, of course, there were also nationalists receiving state support — “to shove, insult, and even spray gas at Ukrainian journalists”.
“No one has been detained. Everything you need to know about how the state uses Nazi stormtroopers to terrorise any alternative views,” stated Volkov.
Earlier, he noted that the “KRT TV channel employs well-known journalists –Ruslan Kotsaba, Dmitry Vasilets, Vasily Muravitsky, Nadezhda Savchenko, Vladimir Ruban, Maksim Goldarb, Artur Zhurbenko, Andrey Gozhy, Dmitry Dzhangirov, and others – who are subjected to harassment for retransmitting the truth.”
The statement made by the TV channel circulated just earlier indicates that “KRT” has been on the air for 17 years, during which time the channel has never violated the current legislation in the field of information and has not had any sanctions for its programs.
“The channel positions itself as a family, cultural, educational, and informational channel. The channel consistently opposes any national and religious hostility,” reads the statement.
In May 2020, the National Council was supposed to consider extending the channel’s license, but instead made a decision to appoint unscheduled inspections, the authors of the statement note.
The channel indicates that the reason for such action of the National Council was the broadcasting of the Victory Parade in Minsk, the coverage of carrying the banners of four Ukrainian fronts on the parade on Red Square, as well as a program on the events related to Maidan, the war in Donbass, and the burning of people in Odessa on May 2nd 2014.
In addition, among the reasons for the persecution of the TV channel are the appearance on the air of a 30-second video with the image of a young Lev Leshchenko performing the song “Victory Day”, and materials criticising the information strategy of the state authorities to promote gender issues.
The journalists believe that “such actions of the National Council are aimed only at violating the legal terms for granting a license, without grounds discrediting the activities of the ‘KRT’ TV channel”.
“We declare that the actions of the National Council are a form of censorship and an attack on freedom of speech. In fact, the National Council has long turned into a repressive punitive body,” KRT notes.
“In fact, the previous government’s (under President Petro Poroshenko) censorship and exertion of pressure on journalists have not only not been stopped, but are being revived with new force,” the statement says. “The president (Vladimir Zelensky), in our opinion, is either misinformed by the immediate environment, or deliberately continues the policy of his predecessors to destroy independent media.”
The authors of the statement called on their colleagues for journalistic solidarity and protection of the rights to freedom of speech.
As was reported by lawyer and human rights activist Andrey Gozhy, the National Council, during its online meeting, decided not to renew the license of the TV channel “KRT”.
“Today, the National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting is a repressive body that performs the functions of supervision and censorship. A punitive body of the ruling regime, whose task is to monitor if events are covered in the correct way, if language quotas are being observed, etc.,” said Gozhy. “Today, the National Council considered the issue of extending the license to the ‘KRT’ TV channel, as well as the issue of appointing a fifth unscheduled inspection of the TV channel. Previously, there were four checks appointed due to the fact that the channel showed the Minsk Victory Parade, there was a report on the Victory Parade in Moscow, due to the fact that the channel gives an alternative point of view on the LGBT movement… Therefore, checks are assigned. In addition, for about six months, the National Council has avoided issuing a license to the TV channel, and today still decided to consider the issue. The National Council refused to extend the license of ‘KRT’, without giving any reason for its decision. They just had the desire to refuse.”
According to Gozhy, this was decided at a meeting that was held online, and it is not clear how this mode corresponds to the rules, how protocol is maintained, etc.
“Employees of the ‘KRT’ TV channel, along with labour unions, went to the building of the National Council today for a peaceful action, notice for which was given in advance,” said Gozhy. “But the regime, using its favourite method, drove the nationalists from ‘National Corpus’ and ‘C14’ there, setting them on women, on journalists… the nationalists worked together, arranged a fight, sprayed the participants of the action with gas canisters, forced people out of the picket. The police did nothing. We see that when the regime does not have any arguments, it resorts to calling its security forces -stormtroopers. This is how Zelensky’s regime actually showed how ready it is to stand up for the truth and whose verdict it really is. Zelensky – he’s a sentence to freedom of speech in this country.”
Gozhy also noted that now the TV channel is waiting for an official paper on the decision of the National Council. And “KRT” journalists, according to him, have two choices for resistance.
“These are acts of direct democracy, which, as we see, become dangerous for people because they are attacked by the nazis. And these are lawsuits in our courts. We will see how effective this is, but there are also European courts,” said the human rights defender. He added that “KRT is still continuing its broadcasting and will continue it to the last; no one is going to give up.”
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