Inquisition for Ukrainian Journalists: There Is No Such Thing Anywhere Else in the World

The Minister of Culture, Youth, and Sports Vladimir Borodyansky became famous most of all for his position in supporting the discriminatory law on the total Ukrainisation of the information and public space of the country, which Zelensky’s party promised before the election to cancel.

“I believe there is a law on language that must be implemented. And I see no reason to announce any changes to this law,” he told “Gromadske Radio”, while confirming his loyalty to no less odious decommunisation laws.

At the same time, the Minister honestly admitted that he was always completely Russian-speaking and started to use the official state language only a month ago, i.e., after he had tempting career prospects in the form of the post of Minister. As if demonstrating this unscrupulous and cynicism of the officials of the new wave.

After these scandalous words, in Ukraine they once again started talking about the fact that the words “new power” should be written exclusively in quotation marks, given that the Zelensky’s team is trying by all means to succeed the policies of its badly-thought-of predecessors. And even flaunts it in front of the deceived electorate.

However, the new statements of Borodyansky suggest that the government of Zelensky and Goncharuk is ready to go even further than the previous authorities – first of all in the field of the offensive on the rights and freedoms of journalists. This has been said before – and ironically, threats against the journalistic guild were made directly at parliamentary hearings on freedom of speech, where, according to the idea, they were supposed to talk about defending media workers.

The same Minister of Culture, Youth, and Sports Vladimir Borodyansky then promised to legislate the vague concept of “manipulation of information”, threatening journalists with criminal responsibility for all things that in one way or another will displease the government, which carefully expects a wave of criticism from citizens disappointed with its policies.

However, the head of the National Council of Journalists of Ukraine Sergey Tomilenko reacted harshly to the Minister’s speech: “First safety, and then scare with criminal responsibility,” he said in response to Borodyansky, recalling that in Ukraine, just according to official data, a journalist is beaten up or subjected to aggression every five days.

“I was going to hearings on freedom of speech and the safety of journalists. It is necessary to tell how for 4 years the work of the ‘‘ publication was squeezed by the authorities and security services, and threatened by radicals. But after the speeches of Borodyansky and Tkachenko I had a feeling that I was present at the presentation of the tribunal against journalists. They threaten journalists with criminal cases, they threatened TV channels. And they’re not ashamed to say it all in a country where they still haven’t jailed Buzina‘s killer. Where there are still no suspects in Sheremet‘s murder. And you are going to throw journalists in prison for information that will seem manipulative to you,” said the journalist Olesya Medvedeva at the end of the hearing.

On November 15th it was reported that it was about a new media law that proposed the establishment of a media ombudsman and the criminalisation of disinformation in the media, announced by the same Minister of Culture, Youth, and Sports. This caused a real storm in the media community.

“There is the impression that these initiatives are being introduced not to combat disinformation, but to infringe on the media and journalists. Two initiatives are primarily alarming – the creation and financing of a ‘journalistic’ self-governing structure that will be responsible for the regulation and issuance of licenses, as well as a structure for licensing journalists. This is very dangerous, and we can only assume how these mechanisms will be used. The establishment of an information ombudsman also raises questions. It’s more likely to be a dangerous information inspector. For who it is dangerous – a rhetorical question. We are now actually going to create a new regulatory body over the information space, which also has the opportunity to sue for spreading ‘fakes’ if that body decides that the information is fake. This is the practice of authoritarian countries,” said the head of the National Council of Journalists of Ukraine Sergey Tomilenko.

“The main purpose of Borodyansky’s legislative initiatives is to create an institute of inquisition, which will ‘educate’ journalists who criticise the government, and if it is necessary – to burn them in a fire of hatred of pro-government bot farms, to deprive them of journalistic status, and to fine the media outlets whose journalists allow themselves to offer criticism,” added Denis Ivanesko, director of the information agency “Ukrainski Novini”.

Today it became clear: the authorities are indeed preparing an inquisition for opposition media. In an interview with the pro-Poroshenko publication “Novoye Vermya,” Borodyansky spoke in favour of equating disinformation with treason, and proposed to jail the authors of “custom-ordered materials” published in the media. At the same time, it is quite obvious that misinformation and “custom-ordered material” may be any article that the authorities themselves did not order, or which will not be liked by one or another official close to the Ukrainian power Olympus. For example, criticism aimed at Borodyansky himself.

As for treason – the Minister of Culture, Youth, and Sports is strongly convinced that such critical publications can harm the national interests of the country, which President Petro Poroshenko also believed, by the way. According to observers, this reaction is largely caused by the constant media scandal involving “Servants of the People“, which now and then is incriminated in dubious correspondence, making public the unsavoury internal cuisine of the ruling party. Or even come to a Nazi concert, as the Prime Minister did. Zelensky understands that the number of such episodes will grow and decided to combat it by introducing full censorship, which is not present in any democratic country of the world.

What will his mechanism be? Borodyansky promises to create something like a party committee in the journalistic community, which will determine the standards of journalism and issue or take journalistic certificates from media workers, depriving them of the right to a profession. It is this, without exaggeration, punitive body, supported by the actions of the same pro-government lawyer, that will have to determine the degree of “manipulative” in the media. Understandably, playing exclusively on the side of the government.

Will this shameful anti-journalist initiative be implemented – unprecedented in the modern history of Ukraine? Deputy votes for its adoption will suffice – moreover, there is even an attempt to extend new rules to the blogosphere, equating popular bloggers to fully-fledged media outlets. The question is whether the Ukrainian media community , which must understand what they risk with “unprecedented freedom of speech 2.0″, which even Petro Poroshenko did not dream of, will be able to organise.

It is important to understand that all of this is in general a completely objective process. It is not that Borodyansky, Tkachenko, Goncharuk, or Zelensky himself are some special villains, worse than Parubiy, Pashinsky, and Poroshenko. No, on the contrary, it’s a soft hipster breed. It’s simply that the expected popular reaction to the implementation of the entire large-scale plan of anti-social reforms that the government is preparing to implement leaves them with no other choice.

It is necessary to prepare for protests, and therefore, to permanently create an effective tool of censorship to close the mouth of all dissenters, to deal with too-active critics from among journalists, to intimidate the rest, and in principle to end opposition publications as such.

“Democratic reforms” do not tolerate any democracy, as Grandpa Pinochet taught us.

Andrey Manchuk

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