MLI representative addressed participants of the OSCE/HDIM international conference

September 22, 2015

These days Warsaw hosts the annual OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting that brings together OSCE and government representatives from many states, diplomats, representatives of civil society organisations and journalists to debate about human rights in respective countries.

The working session on the first day, 21 September 2015, was devoted to the freedom of expression, free media and information. Traditionally, Ms Dunja Mijatovich, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, outlined the most topical challenges for the media in a number of states, particularly referring to the environment in Ukraine. State media appear to be a vehicle for propaganda and should be transformed into a real Public Service Broadcaster, Ms Mijatovich claimed.

MLI lawyer Tetiana Semiletko availed of the opportunity to address the audience by highlighting reformative achievements in Ukraine over the past year, as media owners` openness, the Public Service Broadcaster reform, open data introduction and tracking of public funds online. And here the role of the Reanimation Package of Reforms and that of the Media Law Institute was stressed.

For a complete picture, Tetiana mentioned pressing challenges for Ukraine: monopolisation of microphones by oligarchs during elections, partial disclosure of public information, delay in the digital switchover, other.

Finally, MLI representative called on the Ukrainian government to trigger relevant reforms, and urged the international community to join civil society efforts in implementing the already adopted media reforms and in advocating the awaited ones.

The full text of the statement can be found below.


MLI representative address at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting

21 September 2015, Warsaw, Poland

Dear delegates, fellow professionals!

Ukraine`s media environment is changing constantly, inducing also a positive impact on the media freedom and information rights.

Two years ago we intervened here on the lack of transparency in media ownership that remained a tangible challenge for Ukraine for a long period of time. Today, though, we are pleased to refer to the recent achievements in media owners` openness.

On 3 September, the Ukrainian Parliament adopted a relevant law that shall curb corruption in media sphere and – ultimately – unloose a tight oligarchic grip on media outlets. It obliges TV and radio broadcasters, program service providers to disclose information on their final beneficiaries, on all shareholders of over 10%. Data on the ownership structure to be published on the websites of broadcasters, to be provided when obtaining licenses, and any relevant changes to be reported annually to the national regulator.

Another major change is that the public authorities, local self-governance bodies and legal entities established by them, persons registered in offshore zones, and residents of a state-aggressor are no longer entitled to set up broadcasting or service provider organisations. The national regulator, TV and Radio Council, acquired powers of control over the transparency of media ownership.

In parallel, the reorganization of all state-owned broadcasters into the Public Service Broadcaster of Ukraine started. It is expected to abide by the professional journalist standards, prove independence from any external interference, and also the ability to balance the interests of the majority – the Ukraine`s nation in whole, and those of the minority – national minorities, religion groups, and others ignored by the oligarchic media.

For the Public Service Broadcaster reform, it is advancing owing to the high expectations of the people, understanding by the Government how important it is, and thanks to the direct involvement of the active civil society into the process. In October the conference of CSOs shall be convened to elect members of the Supervisory Board for the Public Service Broadcaster.

Another awaited breakthrough was made in April 2015, when the notion of open data was introduced into Ukraine`s legislation. Open data are published on a single web-portal and are allowed for further re-use and dissemination – for both commercial and non-commercial purposes, just citing the source of information. The categories of open data include register of legal entities and individual entrepreneurs; register of TV and radio organizations; register of state-owned property objects; master plans of the localities and detailed plans of territories; information on public procurement; reports on the state and local budgets` execution. And use of public funds can now be tracked online, since 15 September.

As a part of expanding the right to public information, the parliamentary sittings were made available to Ukrainian citizens last December thanks to the Media Law Institute strategic litigation.

The role of the civil society organisations in devising and enacting these changes appeared crucial. And here the Reanimation Package of Reforms – the largest coalition of the reform-oriented CSOs – should be mentioned in the first row.

Along with this, Ukraine`s media environment is wrestling with a cascade of challenges nowadays:

  • when media cover elections we say that oligarchs monopolised microphones, as the candidate advertising on TV and radio remains unrestricted, many media publish unmarked pre-paid materials;
  • about 550 print media in Ukraine remain owned by the state or local bodies and are, therefore, often exploited for political purposes, are supported from the budget and avoid any open competition on the market;
  • partial disclosure of public information by the Parliament and governmental bodies, as financial reports and minutes of their meetings, and lack of efficient whistleblower protection;
  • as well as delay in the digital switchover of Ukraine.

Hereby the Media Law Institute calls on the Ukrainian government to trigger and step up relevant reforms.

We also urge the international community, delegations concerned, to join our civil society efforts in implementing the already adopted media reforms and in advocating the awaited ones before Ukraine`s government.