Feasible conditions for restrictions of freedom of expression and the media in Ukraine

July 28, 2011

Today,on July28, 2011,President of Ukraine Victor Yanukovych signed the Law of Ukraine “Onthe Court Fee” (3674-VI) that was previously adopted by VerkhovnaRada on July 8, 2011. This event crucially disappointed whole mediacommunity insomuch as new provisions create feasible conditions forrestrictions of freedom of expression and the media in Ukraine.

ApprovedLaw provides that an amount of the fee claims for compensation formoral damage is 1% of the price action; it should not be less than0.2 of minimum wage and at the same time can not exceed 3 minimumwages. Therefore, the maximum fee while filing a claim forcompensation for moral damages, regardless of the price action, willbe 2823 hryvnas in 2011.

TheLaw 3674-VI abolishes previouslegislation – amendments to the Decree of theCabinet of Ministers ofUkraine “OnState Duty” thatset rule ofproportionalityof to the price of the claim amounts tothe fees onclaims forcompensation for moraldamages,namely – 10% for theclaims with large amounts.

Communityof Ukrainian media lawyers, activists, human rights organisationsstrongly believe that the possibility to fil “golden” suits againstthe media itself has anegative effect and leads to severe self-censorship.The absenceof adequate and proportional to the claims courtfees createsopportunity to putpressure onthe media andindividual journalists and also may lead tothe forced shut-down of media after theapplication of disproportionate penalties. Thispotential practice is definitely contrary to the Article 34 of theConstitution of Ukraineand theArticle 10 of theEuropean Convention onHuman Rightsthat guarantee freedom of expression.

TheLaw will enter to the force on 1 November, 2011.