Banning the “NewsOne” TV Channel: Zelensky Steps Towards Authoritarianism

News about the decision of the National Television Commission to appeal to the court with a demand to deprive the oppositional channel “NewsOne” of its broadcasting license became the first demonstrative and repressive action in relation to media during the presidential reign of Zelensky. This news quite expectedly caused an impassioned reaction on social networks.

There is no doubt that it’s not a coincide that the activisation of a supervisory authority in relation to a media resource that is connected to the leader of “Opposition Platform — For Life” happened right after the statement of the president Vladimir Zelensky about the forthcoming large-scale exposure of the illegal activity of Viktor Medvedchuk‘s party.

At the same time, it should be noted that the campaign against the “NewsOne” TV channel was started by Petro Poroshenko. And the teleconference [with Russia – ed] that in the end didn’t take place became the reason for this consideration by the National Council. The government has been replaced, but Zelensky’s team decided to use a formal reason to “hit” the oppositional TV channel in full.

The political-economic expert Andrey Golovachev is sure that all the activity of the National Council is authorised by the presidential office. He emphasised that the closure of the “NewsOne” TV channel is a test – a peculiar litmus paper for Zelensky.

“It is necessary to explain right away that the National Television Commission is a structure that is always and completely controlled by the government. It is impossible to imagine – even theoretically – a situation where the National Television Commission will decide to make at least one serious decision without consulting Bankova Street or receiving a direct instruction from there first.

And the National Television Commission is not able to independently solve such an issue as depriving the ‘NewsOne’ TV channel – behind which there is Medvedchuk – of a licence, it wouldn’t even dare to raise this issue for discussion independently. Because this is a large profile case, it concerns a very influential politician who is Putin’s godfather, and because closing the channel is in general nonsense and will cause a negative reaction in Europe,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

Andrey Golovachev believes that the decision that Zelensky already for certain made will reflect his style of political combat, his drive and temperament so to speak.

“If he chooses a radical way of closing the channel, then a sharp intensification of Zelensky‘s authoritarianism with dramatic consequences both for the country and for he himself lie ahead of us,” assures the political scientist.

The head of the Housing Union of Ukraine Aleksandr Skubchenko also agrees with such an assessment. He believes that if the “NewsOne” TV channel is deprived of a broadcasting license, it will be the end of all hopes for democratic changes during Zelensky’s reign.

“It turns out that freedom of speech doesn’t apply to everyone – it only applies to their own people. If the irreparable happens, then Zelensky is lost, and it’s even worse than it was under Poroshenko. But at the moment he still has a chance to preserve the human inside of himself, and the belief of the people in him. And yes … ‘Servants of the People’, who are on the air of ‘NewsOne’, ‘112’, ‘ZIK’ more often than on ‘1+1’, maybe, should appeal to your leader on such a day, eh?” stressed Skubchenko.

The most pessimistic forecasts came true literally several hours later, when, under the supervision of radicals from the “C14” organisation and other nationalist radicals, the National Council made the decision to appeal to the court with a demand to deprive the TV channel of its license.

The political scientist Denis Gorokhovsky commented on this decision:

“The National Council did exactly what was expected prior to the meeting: it appealed to the court for the subsequent cancellation of the broadcasting license of NewsOne. This is the maximum sanction that the regulator can use within the framework of the corresponding law. The decision was passed unanimously,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

And the Ukrainian political scientist-foreign affairs specialist and journalist Oleg Voloshin, who directly participated in the meeting of the National Council, shared his impression of the atmosphere in which the decision on the “NewsOne” TV channel was made:

“After the ura-patriot court hearing vis-a-vis NewsOne channel, which was organised at a meeting of the National Council, where Nestor Shufrych in relation to us issued threats, was rude, and tried to shut mouths, there was the complete feeling that on Bankova Street it’s not Poroshenko whose sits in the office of the president, but even Yarosh or Tyagnibok. I and millions of other likeminded people voted in the second round of the election for this? I don’t think so,” he said.

After the National Council made its decision, the human rights activist Elena Berezhnaya urged journalists to show solidarity and to rise in defence of the TV channel.

“First to go? Today the National Council made the decision to appeal to the court with a demand to deprive the ‘NewsOne’ TV channel of its broadcasting license only on the basis of views and beliefs expressed by the guests invited to the studio! These are the first signs of Nazi totalitarianism!!!! I call on the management and journalists of all media outlets in Ukraine to support ‘NewsOne’ tomorrow by posting ‘No to the ban on freedom of speech’ and to hold the corresponding round tables!” wrote Berezhnaya, addressing the Ukrainian media.

Fyodor Fefelov

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