Attn: President of Ukraine
Chairperson of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine
Chairperson of the VRU Committee on Humanitarian
and Information Policy
Prime Minister of Ukraine
Deputy Prime Minister for European and
Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine
EU Ambassador, Head of the EU Delegation to Ukraine
Ukraine is in its tenth year of war with the Russian Federation, which could not accept the right of a sovereign state to determine its own foreign policy, democratic structure and intentions to return to the European family of nations.
Ukraine pays an exorbitant daily price for the right to be an independent, autonomous state with the rule of law and freedom of speech – phenomena that are so frightening for the authoritarian regimes of its northeastern neighbors. It is thanks to this aspiration that Ukraine was able to sign the Association Agreement and, during the full-scale invasion, to obtain the status of a candidate country for EU membership. However, to confirm this status, Ukraine had to meet one of the 7 requirements of the European Commission, namely the requirement to “overcome the influence of actors with vested interests by adopting a media law that aligns Ukrainian legislation with the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive and gives powers to an independent media regulator”.
In pursuance of this clause, on December 13, 2022, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted the Law of Ukraine “On Media” which came into force on March 31, 2023. The law implements the approaches of the EU Audiovisual Directive and contains a number of mechanisms to enhance transparency of financial reporting and ownership structure of media, introduces a single regulator for all media outlets, and introduces a change in the culture of media market regulation. The Law “On Media” has already been highly praised by the official expert evaluation of the Council of Europe; and at the EU-Ukraine summit in February 2023 it was the progress in meeting the requirements in the media sphere that was highlighted as one of the most essential ones.
However, the fact that the legislation has been adopted is not a guarantee of its quality implementation. It depends directly on the resources allocated to it, the availability of professional staff, and timely decisions. We can state that no sooner has the law entered into force than some of its norms have already been suspended for 2023, the year when most of the steps for its implementation should be taken – development and adoption of bylaws, creation of personal account, etc.
Thus, the Law “On Amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On the State Budget of Ukraine for 2023”, among other things, suspended the norms of Articles 78, 84, 89 of the Law of Ukraine “On Media” for 2023. All these norms of the Law guarantee the financial support of the activities of the media regulator:
1) Remuneration for the members of the National Council of Ukraine on Television and Radio Broadcasting;
2) Remuneration for the employees of the National Council staff;
3) The level of total funding of the regulator guaranteed by the Law;
4) An important additional source of financial support for the regulator – at least 4% of the fee for the use of the radio frequency spectrum of Ukraine in the current year.
The suspension of the norms not only jeopardizes the quality launch of the law, but also created a legal conflict when the mechanism for charging the members of the National Council disappeared. In addition, the amendments introduced by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine to Resolution No. 304 of April 20, 2016, which determines the official salaries and the general terms of remuneration for the members of the media regulator at UAH 21,000 for a member and UAH 25,000 for the Chairperson of the National Council, do not correspond to either the level of responsibility or the principles of regulator’s independence. After all, all norms concerning the regulator’s financial independence have been suspended, and any funding, including salaries for the members of the National Council and the staff, is regulated manually by the executive branch.
This situation directly contradicts the requirement of Art. 30 of the Directive, which stipulates the obligation of states to ensure the legal separation of regulators from the government and the functional independence from their governments, to ensure that the national regulatory authorities have adequate financial and human resources and enforcement powers to enable them to effectively perform their functions and facilitate the work of ERGA.
Being aware of the fact that defense expenditures are the number one priority, which determines any other state budget expenditures, we emphasize that the temporarily reduced funding of the media regulator should be determined by law and not by subordinating it to the Government.
Given the fact that the monitoring of compliance with the European Union requirements will include not only the assessment of the quality and compliance with the European standards of the adopted legal acts, but also the practice of their application and implementation, we consider the dependence of the National Council members and staff on the executive branch to be dangerous in terms of maintaining the EU candidate status and continuing the membership negotiations.
We call for an analysis of the priority expenditures for the proper launch of the Media Law with the involvement of EU representatives and for taking measures to bring the legislation and its implementation practices in terms of ensuring the independence of the media regulator in line with the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive.
This statement is open for signature.
Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law
Mass Information Institute
Digital Security Lab
Ukrainian Media and Communication Institute
Human Rights Platform
National Association of Media
Public Association Reanimation Package of Reforms Coalition