Independent Media Council (IMC) has found that imposition of restrictions on retransmission of Dozhd TV programming in Ukraine is in conformity with the three-pronged test for restricting freedom of expression.
On its own initiative, and in light of the international concerns caused by the restriction on retransmitting Dozhd TV programs in Ukrainian cable and IPTV networks, IMC decided to review whether the relevant decision of the National Radio and Television Council was in compliance with international standards of human rights restrictions.
According to IMC, the restriction is fully consistent with Article 10, Paragraph 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In particular, it is provided for by law: the statutes invoked by the National Council are properly accessible and predictable. It should be noted further that the prohibition on broadcasting commercial messages, and on placement of commercial messages by providers in the programs and shows of foreign broadcasting organizations has been in existence since 2008. The regulator’s practice during the military conflict on the Ukrainian soil gives indication of the fact that Dozhd TV should have been aware of the need to adapt its broadcasting to applicable law, including the requirement to reflect territorial integrity of Ukraine in any maps that are shown on the screen.
IMC deems the restriction to have a legitimate aim, i.e. protecting national security, territorial integrity and the rights of others. “As for the criterion of necessity in a democratic society, the need to apply restrictions in Ukraine is caused by external aggression and the conditions of constant informational confrontation, active propaganda and incitement of hatred by the aggressor state, as well as by Russia’s failure to recognize the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine”, so it is stated in IMC’s findings.
Further, according to IMC the restriction has been proportionate, since removal of a foreign program from the List (of allowed programming) may be considered as the least restrictive of all possible measures, inasmuch as no financial penalties were applied to the violators at such time. Moreover, the state does not restrict access to programs not included on the List through other means of transmission, including the Internet and satellite broadcasting.
IMC member Natalia Humenyuk has added her own dissenting opinion to the decision.
On January 12, the National Council removed Russian Dozhd TV channel from the List of foreign programs, whose content is considered to be in conformity with the requirements of the European Convention on Transfrontier Television, and with laws of Ukraine, while also suspending retransmission of Teleclub, a TV channel with a German jurisdiction, for three months in Ukraine. The decision regarding Dozhd TV comes into force one month after publication.
Dozhd has been removed from the List because it had broadcast commercial messages that are prohibited under Ukrainian law (the law prohibits to air commercial messages on Russian TV channels retransmitted in Ukraine) and, also, transmitted information encroaching on the territorial integrity of Ukraine (Dozhd TV shows the Crimea as territory of the Russian Federation). The decision to remove takes effect one month after publication.
Maria Zakharova, an official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry reported, in a post on her Facebook page, that she would ask OSCE to look into the situation caused by the National Council’s decision to ban Dozhd TV broadcasts in Ukraine.
OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović mentioned the issue of Dozhd TV termination in Ukraine. Following that, Iryna Herashchenko, First Deputy Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, suggested that Ms. Mijatović should pay attention to blocking of Ukrainian TV channels in Russia and the Donbas.
Dozhd TV prohibition was criticized by Freedom House, the NYC-based Committee to Protect Journalists, and by international human rights organization Human Rights Watch. At a later time, the National Council responded to Freedom House’s statement, defending its decision.
Read IMC decision here.
IMC is a self-regulatory institution of the media sector, whose 15 members are well-respected journalists and civil society activists with a solid experience in mass media. Its membership was formed in late 2015 by five media organizations: Center for Democracy and the Rule of Law (formerly Media Law Institute), Institute of Mass Information, Internews Ukraine, Detector Media (formerly Telekrytyka NGO), and Souspilnist Foundation.
In addition to providing expert advice to help with resolution of conflict situations, IMC is planning to make recommendations to government and other stakeholders, seeking to improve regulation in the media sector.
IMC is chaired by Natalia Ligachova, head of Ukrainian NGO Detector Media, and its secretaries are media lawyers Ihor Rozkladai (Center for Democracy and the Rule of Law) and Roman Holovenko (Institute of Mass Information).
Within a year from its inception, IMC adopted eleven decisions with findings that concerned: NTN TV Channel’s infringement of de-communization laws; recording of a program with Victoria Shilova on the air of TV Reporter (Odesa); irregularities in reporting on a refugee facility at Yahotyn in Kyiv Oblast; the much-debated program Double Life of the President; Ne Zarikaysya (Never Say Never) TV series; criticism regarding a Slidstvo.Info episode on texty.org.ua; broadcasting of programs with (Ukrainian Communist Party leader) Petro Symonenko on Gamma Channel; commercials for Ridna Rosa, Shustov, and Pervak products; a Vidkrytyi Mikrofon (Open Microphone) episode on Radio AKS; Traffic with Kyva show on NewsOne TV; and publication of an article by Vadym Troyan, titled War at the Criminal Front, in Dzerkalo Tyzhnya weekly newspaper. In addition, IMC has prepared a recommendation on content regulation for the National Council.
In 2017, IMC has made a decision on the content of entertainment programs and their announcements on STB TV Channel (One for All, Battle of Psychics, Daddy’s House, and MasterChef).