Freedom of the press in Ukraine
due to profound changes in the media environment after the fall of President Viktor Yanukovych’s government in February, despite a rise in attacks on journalists during the Euromaidan protests of early 2014 and the subsequent conflict in eastern Ukraine. The level of government hostility and legal pressure faced by journalists decreased, as did political pressure on state-owned outlets. The media also benefited from improvements to the law on access to information and the increased independence of the broadcasting regulator.
In 2015 the main concerns about media freedom in Ukraine concern the handling of pro-Russian propaganda, the concentration of media ownership, and the high risks of violence against journalists, especially in the conflict areas in the east.
As of September 2015, Freedom House classifies the Internet in Ukraine as "partly free" and the press as "partly free". Press freedom had significantly improved since the Orange Revolution of 2004. However, in 2010 Freedom House perceived "negative trends in Ukraine".
The Ukrainian legal framework on media freedom is deemed "among the most progressive in eastern Europe", although implementation has been uneven. The Constitution of Ukraine and a 1991 law provide for freedom of speech.
Many Ukrainian journalists found themselves internally displaced due to the Russian annexation of Crimea and the war in Donbass, including Donetsk-based investigative journalist Oleksiy Matsuka, Luhansk blogger Serhiy Ivanov and Donetsk Ostrov independent website editor Serhiy Harmash. The entire staff of Ostrov left the occupied Donbass areas and relocated to Kiev.
- 1 History
- 2 Attacks and threats against journalists
- 3 Missing reporters
- 4 Internet censorship and surveillance
- 5 Situation in the Russian-annexed Crimea
- 6 Situation in the occupied regions of Donetsk and Luhansk
- 7 See also
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- 10 External links
The report Freedom in the World (by Freedom House) rated Ukraine "partly free" since/from 1992 till 2003, when it was rated "not free". Since 2005 it is rated "partly free" again. According to Freedom House internet in Ukraine is "Free" and the press is "Partly Free".
Ukraine's ranking in Reporters Without Borders´s Press Freedom Index has long been around the 90th spot (89 in 2009, 87 in 2008), while it occupied the 112th spot in 2002 and even the 132nd spot in 2004. In 2010 it fell to the 131st place; according to Reporters Without Borders this was the result of "the slow and steady deterioration in press freedom since Viktor Yanukovych’s election as president in February". In 2013 Ukraine occupied the 126th spot (dropping 10 places compared with 2012); (according to Reporters Without Borders) "the worst record for the media since the Orange Revolution in 2004". In the 2014 World Press Freedom Index Ukraine was placed 127th.
During an opinion poll by Research & Branding Group in October 2009 49.2% of the respondents stated that Ukraine's level of freedom of speech was sufficient, and 19.6% said the opposite. Another 24.2% said that there was too much of freedom of speech in Ukraine. According to the data, 62% of respondents in western Ukraine considered the level of freedom of speech sufficient, and in the central and southeastern regions the figures were 44% and 47%, respectively. In a late 2010 poll also conducted by the Research & Branding Group 56% of all Ukrainians trusted the media and 38.5% didn't.
Kuchma presidencies (1994-2004)
After the (only) term of office of the first Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk ended in 1994, the freedom of the press worsened. During the presidency of Leonid Kuchma (1994–2004) several news-outlets critical to the him were forcefully closed. In 1999 the Committee to Protect Journalists placed Kuchma on the list of worst enemy's of the press. In that year the Ukrainian Government partially limited freedom of the press through tax inspections (Mykola Azarov, who later became Prime Minister of Ukraine, headed the tax authority during Kuchma's presidency), libel cases, subsidization, and intimidation of journalists; this caused many journalists to practice self-censorship. In 2003 and 2004 authorities interfered with the media by issuing written and oral instructions about what events to cover. Toward the very end of the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election campaign in November 2004, many media outlets began to ignore government direction and covered events in a more objective, professional manner.
Orange revolution and Yushchenko presidency (2004-2010)
Since the Orange Revolution (of 2004) Ukrainian media has become more pluralistic and independent. For instance, attempts by authorities to limit freedom of the press through tax inspections have ceased. Since then the Ukrainian press is considered to be among the freest of all post-Soviet states (only the Baltic states are considered "free").
After the 2005 Orange Revolution, Ukrainian television became more free. In February 2009 the National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting claimed that "political pressure on mass media increased in recent times through amending laws and other normative acts to strengthen influence on mass media and regulatory bodies in this sphere".
In 2007, in Ukraine's provinces numerous, anonymous attacks and threats persisted against journalists, who investigated or exposed corruption or other government misdeeds. The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists concluded in 2007 that these attacks, and police reluctance in some cases to pursue the perpetrators, were "helping to foster an atmosphere of impunity against independent journalists."
In Ukraine’s provinces numerous, anonymous attacks and threats persisted against journalists, who investigated or exposed corruption or other government misdeeds. The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists concluded in 2007 that these attacks, and police reluctance in some cases to pursue the perpetrators, were "helping to foster an atmosphere of impunity against independent journalists." Media watchdogs have stated attacks and pressure on journalists have increased since the February 2010 election of Viktor Yanukovych as President.
In December 2009 and during the 2010 Ukrainian presidential election campaign incumbent Prime Minister of Ukraine and presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko complained Ukrainian TV channels are manipulating the consciousness of citizens in favor of financial and oligarchic groups. As of January 2009, Ukrainian Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko refused to appear in Inter TV-programmes "until journalists, management and owners of the TV channel stop destroying the freedom of speech and until they remember the essence of their profession - honesty, objectiveness, and unbiased stand".
Yanukovych presidency (2010-2013)
Since Viktor Yanukovych was elected President of Ukraine in February 2010 Ukrainian journalists and international journalistic watchdogs (including the European Federation of Journalists and Reporters Without Borders) have complained about a deterioration of press freedom in Ukraine. Yanukovych responded (in May 2010) that he "deeply values press freedom" and that "free, independent media that must ensure society's unimpeded access to information". Anonymous journalists stated early May 2010 that they were voluntarily tailoring their coverage so as not to offend the Yanukovych administration and the Azarov Government. The Azarov Government denies censoring the media, so did the Presidential Administration and President Yanukovych himself. Presidential Administration Deputy Head Hanna Herman stated on May 13, 2010 that the opposition benefited from discussions about the freedom of the press in Ukraine and also suggested that the recent reaction of foreign journalists organizations had been provoked by the opposition. On May 12, 2010, the parliamentary committee for freedom of speech and information called on the General Prosecutor's Office to immediately investigate complaints by journalists of pressure on journalists and censorship.
A law on strengthening the protection of the ownership of mass media offices, publishing houses, bookshops and distributors, as well as creative unions was passed by the Ukrainian Parliament on May 20, 2010.
Since the February 2010 election of Viktor Yanukovych as President Media watchdogs have stated attacks and pressure on journalists have increased. The International Press Institute addressed an open letter to President Yanukovych on August 10, 2010 urging him to address what the organisation saw as a disturbing deterioration in press freedom over the previous six months in Ukraine. PACE rapporteur Renate Wohlwend noticed on October 6, 2010 that "Some progress had been made in recent years but there had also been some retrograde steps". In January 2011 Freedom House stated it had perceived "negative trends in Ukraine" during 2010; these included: curbs on press freedom, the intimidation of civil society, and greater government influence on the judiciary.
According to the US Department of State in 2009 there were no attempts by central authorities to direct media content, but there were reports of intimidation of journalists by national and local officials. Media at times demonstrated a tendency toward self‑censorship on matters that the government deemed sensitive. Stories in the electronic and printed media (veiled advertisements and positive coverage presented as news) and participation in a television talk show can be bought. Media watchdog groups have express concern over the extremely high monetary damages that were demanded in court cases concerning libel.
Euromaidan revolution and Poroshenko presidency (2014)
Ukraine was one of the most dangerous places for journalists in the world during the euromaidan demonstrations and the war in Donbass. A May 2014 report from the OSCE found approximately 300 instances of perceived violent attacks on the media in Ukraine since November 2013. The Ukrainian NGO Institute of Mass Information recorded at least 995 violations of free speech in 2014 - the double than in 2013 (496) and triple than in 2012 (324). Most attacks on journalists happened during the euromaidan period in Kiev (82 in January, 70 in February 2014). 78 journalists were abducted and illegally detained by various groups in 2014 - a new category of professional risk; 20 such cases happened in Donetsk in April 2014.
In 2014 restrictions to press freedom in Ukraine included police impeding access to public buildings, physical attacks on press rooms, and cyberattacks (e.g. against the Glavnoe, Gordon and UNIAN websites); in July 2014 a firebomb was thrown at the TV channel 112 Ukraine.
Political interference in the media sector greatly diminished after the flight of Yanukovych from Ukraine, with media outlets almost immediately starting to openly discuss the events of the previous months, including the moments of violence, which had previously been censored or self-censored through pressures on owners and managers. The Ukrainian parliamentary election, 2014 was covered with a wide variety of political orientations in the media. Minor cases of pressures or censorship attempts were reported in 2014 too. In Kirovohrad in December 2014 a regional politician ordered a subordinate to review the Zorya newspaper before its publication.
Censorship issues were debated in 2015 concerning aggressive propaganda from Russian state-owned news outlets to support the Russian annexation of Crimea, encourage separatism in Donbass and discredit the Kiev government. Creating some concern among Western human rights monitors was that under the impact of war and perceived extreme social polarization the Ukrainian government has been accused of cracking down on pro-separatist points of view. For example, Ukraine also shut down most Russia-based television stations on the grounds that they purvey “propaganda,” and barred a growing list of Russian journalists from entering the country.
- The broadcasting regulators was mandated by courts to suspend temporarily the rebroadcasting of certain Russian channels in Ukraine. In 2014 Ukraine blocked 14 Russian television channels from its cable networks. By September 2014, the number of television channels blocked from Ukrainian cable networks had risen to 15; the legal basis for this were charges of stirring hatred, threatening national security and supporting separatism.
- On 11 September 2014 the Russian-language newspaper Vesti was raided by the Ukrainian Security Service, which seized equipment and temporarily shut off its website, for “violating Ukraine’s territorial integrity” brought swift condemnation from the international Committee to Protect Journalists and the OSCE.[nb 2] Vesti had already been searched for money-laundering in May 2014.
- Ukrainian authorities denied entry to several Russian journalists throughout 2014, with bans on re-entry for some of up to 5 years
- The Ministry of Information Policy (Ukraine) was established on 2 December 2014. The ministry oversees information policy in Ukraine. According to the first Minister of Information, Yuriy Stets, one of the goals of its formation was to counteract "Russian information aggression" amidst pro-Russian unrest across Ukraine, and the ongoing war in the Donbass region. Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko said that the main function of the ministry is to stop "the spreading of biased information about Ukraine".
- On 16 September 2015 president Poroshenko signed a decree banning forty-one foreign journalists and bloggers who 'threaten national interests' from Ukraine. This was later reduced to 38.
Since November 2015 Ukrainian authorities, state agencies and local government authorities are forbidden to act as founders (or cofounders) of printed media outlets.
Attacks and threats against journalists
Ukraine was one of the most dangerous places for journalists in the world during the euromaidan demonstrations and the war in Donbass. A May 2014 report from the OSCE found approximately 300 instances of perceived violent attacks on the media in Ukraine since November 2013. 78 journalists were abducted and illegally detained by various groups in 2014 - a new category of professional risk; 20 such cases happened in Donetsk in April 2014. In July 2014 a firebomb was thrown at the TV channel 112 Ukraine.
Timeline of reporters killed in Ukraine
|1995||April||Volodymyr Ivanov of Slava Sevastopolya, in Sevastopol |
|1996||May||Ihor Hrushetsky in Cherkasy|
|1997||13 March||Petro Shevchenko, correspondent for the daily Kyivskiye Vedomosti in Luhansk, Ukraine, is found hanging in an abandoned building in Kiev. He had co-authored articles about disputes between the mayor of Luhansk and the local branch of the Ukrainian Security Services.|
|11 August||Borys Derevyanko, editor-in-chief of the Ukrainian newspaper, Verchernaya Odessa, shot twice and killed while on the way to an editorial board meeting at his office.|
|1999||16 May||Ihor Bondar director of the AMT television station, was shot and killed in the an Odessa residential neighbourhood, as he was driving in a car with Boris Vikhrov, the Odessa court's presiding judge. The magistrate was also killed in the attack. This double murder was carried out by men with Kalashnikov-style automatic weapons riding in a car.|
|2000||16 September||Georgiy Gongadze co-founded a news website, Ukrayinska Pravda, killed in the Taraschanskyi Raion (district) after being kidnapped.|
|2001||24 June||Oleh Breus publisher of the regional weekly, XXI Vek, was shot dead by two gunmen outside his home in Luhansk. He was shot in the head and back at point blank range as he was getting out of his car. The motive for the murder remains unknown, although colleagues at XXI Vek said they had received threats in recent months. Breus himself narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in December 2000.|
|7 July||Ihor Oleksandrov, director of the private TV and radio station TOR in Sloviansk, died of injuries sustained on 3 July, when four unidentified men wielding baseball bats attacked him at his office. Local media suggested that Oleksandrov's death was linked to his investigations into corruption and organised crime. Four former policemen were sentenced to 7-13 years imprisonment for fraud during the criminal case involving Oleksandrov in March 2012.|
|2002||27 November||Mykhailo Kolomiets, co-founder of Ukrainian News Agency found dead hanging on a tree in Belarus.|
|2003||14 December||Volodymyr Karachevtsev, 47, deputy editor-in-chief of Kuryer newspaper, was found dead in his home in Melitopol]. He was discovered hanging from the handle of his refrigerator. Karachevtsev was also chairman of the regional independent union of journalists and a correspondent for the online publication, Vlasti.net. Police did not rule out the possibility of murder.|
|2004||3 March||Yuriy Chechyk, director of Radio Yuta in Poltava, died under suspicious circumstances in a car crash. He was on the way to meet with executives of Radio Liberty's Ukrainian Service, which is often critical of the Ukrainian government, to hold talks on rebroadcasting the station's programmes on the more accessible FM band.|
|2010||August||Vasyl Klymentyev, a Ukrainian investigative journalist, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Novy Stil based in Kharkiv. He went missing in August and is presumed dead. He had been investigating local corruption.|
|2014||20 February||Ihor Kostenko, a 22-year-old Ukrainian journalist from the newspaper Sportanalytic, also a geography student and contributor to the Ukrainian Wikipedia. He died during Euromaidan.|
|2014||24 May||Andrea Rocchelli, Italian photojournalist killed in unclear circumstances while covering the Siege of Sloviansk. Ronchelli's Russian interpreter, Andrey Mironov, was also killed. French photographer William Roguelon told Russian television that Rocchelli and Mironov were killed while trying to escape mortar fire, and that he himself was wounded in the incident.|
|2014||17 June||Igor Kornelyuk, Russian reporter died in hospital of wounds. According to a spokesperson of the Lugansk People's Republic, previously he was caught in a mortar firefight staged by Ukrainian forces and his fate along with Voloshin and other 15 rebels who were with them was not known.|
|2014||29 June||Anatoly Klyan, Russian cameraman for Russia's Channel One was shot in the stomach as the bus he was riding in came under fire by Ukrainian forces near the entrance to a military base in Donetsk, according to Moscow Times. Klyan was in a bus with mothers of soldiers who reportedly wanted to negotiate with the Ukrainian troops. Klyan died shortly afterwards. Ukrainian officials promised to investigate the incident.|
|2014||November||Aleksandr Kuchinsky, prominent crime reporter, and his wife were murdered. |
|2015||28 February||Serhiy Nikolayev, photojournalist for Segodnya in Kiev, Ukraine, killed by shelling crossfire.|
|2015||March||Olga Moroz, editor of the Neteshinsky Vestnik|
|2015||16 April||Oles Buzina, pro-Russian journalist and writer.|
|2016||20 July||Pavel Sheremet Belarusian journalist, who was a critic of Russian censorship, killed by a car bomb.|
- Sergei Dolgov, a newspaper editor from Mariupol, went missing in June 2014 during the War in Donbass and is presumed dead by some mostly pro-Russian sources 
Internet censorship and surveillance
In its Freedom on the Net report covering the period May 2012 through April 2013, Freedom House found the Internet in Ukraine to be "largely unhindered" and rated the Internet in Ukraine as "Free" with an overall score of 28 on a scale from 0 (most free) to 100 (least free). The report said that "there is no practice of institutionalized blocking or filtering, or a regulatory framework for censorship of content online", but "there have been attempts at creating legislation which could censor or limit content" and would "present indirect threats to freedom of information online."
Access to Internet content in Ukraine remains largely unfettered. Ukraine possesses relatively liberal legislation governing the Internet and access to information. While there are no government restrictions on access to the Internet, law enforcement bodies are known to monitor the Internet, at times without appropriate legal authority. There have been occasional agitations of interference by law enforcement agencies with prominent bloggers and online publications.
Situation in the Russian-annexed Crimea
The media environment in Crimea was completely transformed by the March 2014 Russian annexation of the peninsula, after the ejection of Viktor Yanukovych from power in Ukraine following the euromaidan protests. Russian authorities engineered an annexation referendum to Russia, and restrictive Russian media laws started to be enacted in the Black Sea peninsula too. Media conditions in Crimea in 2014 were worse than in Russia itself, due to the effort of Russia-imposed authorities to rein in a previously relatively pluralistic media landscape. Media outlets were shut down, broadcasts of Ukrainian channels were suspended, and journalists fled the region due to fears of harassment, violence, and arrests. The situation of press freedom in Crimea in 2014 was identified by Freedom House as the worst in the European continent.
Russian outlets, particularly state-owned ones, enjoy a dominant position in post-annexation Crimea. The distribution of Ukrainian print media has been obstructed by Russian officials, and even the Ukrainian Postal Agency had to stop deliveries in the peninsula. Widespread and irregular expropriations by Russian authorities have also affected the Crimean media landscape 
Free access to the internet in Crimea was threatened by Russian authorities. Rostelecom laid a cable under the Kerch strait and provided online services in the peninsula starting from July 2014. Since August 2014, mobile phone services by Ukrainian carriers were disrupted and replaced by Russian companies.
After the annexation, Russian authorities passed a local constitution on the Russian model and started imposing Russian legislation. Despite guarantees for freedom of speech and freedom of the press in the Russian legislation, politicised judiciary and restrictive laws devoid them of actual contents, leaving broad discretion to federal regulators in media registration and licensing.
All media in Crimea, including online ones, were afforded until January 2015 to register with the Russian federal media regulator Rozkomnadzor and get a license. Officials warned editors that registration would be denied to media that spread "extremist" contents. A December 2013 Russian law against separatism (carrying sanctions of up to 5 years in prison) was used to repress criticism of the annexation and calls for a return of the territory to Ukraine.
NGOs, journalists' associations and citizen groups in Crimea became subject to restrictive Russian laws, including measures limiting foreign funding. Russian authorities failed to protect journalists, activists and citizens from abuses by paramilitaries and security forces. Cases of unlawful detentions and physical assaults were reported throughout 2014 in Crimea.
Attacks and threats against journalists
Since the annexation, Russian authorities threatened and harassed pro-Ukrainian or simply independent media in Crimea. Media professionals - including foreign ones - have been obstructed, detained, questioned, and have had their equipment seized or destroyed. "Self-defence" paramilitary units have enjoyed impunity for their punitive actions against non-aligned journalists.
- In June 2014 paramilitaries stopped Sergey Mokrushin and Vladen Melnikov (of the Centre for Investigative Journalism) on the streets of Simferopol for singing an anti-Putin song. The two were detained and badly beaten, then passed to the police, who released them.
- Ruslan Yugosh, among the founders of the Sobytiya Kryma (Crimean Events) news website, was summoned by the police in June 2014. In his absence from Crimea, the police interrogated his 73-years-old mother, threatening her with repercussions related to Yugosh' work.
Several human rights and civic activists chose to relocate to mainland Ukraine to escape restrictions, intimidation and harassment, providing information to the Crimean public via the internet.
- The independent TV and radio station Chornomorska moved to the mainland after being forced off-air in March 2014 and having its equipment seized under the pretext of failure to pay fees.
- The anti-annexation blogger Yelizaveta Bohutskaya left Crimea in September 2014 after a police raid at her home. She had been questioned for six hours and had had her equipment seized.
- Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty created a Crimean news service in Russian, Ukrainian and Tatar languages.
Repression of Crimean Tatar media
- In June 2014 Shevket Kaybullayev, editor of the Avdet newspaper, was questioned and warned by the prosecutor over "extremist contents" due to the paper's coverage of an opposition activities and the use of the term "occupation". In September 2014 the premises of the Avdet newspaper were raided and searched by unidentified security forces, without a warrant. The newspaper was closed down and its bank accounts seized. Kaybullayev was officially warned that he would be prosecuted and risked up to 5 years in jail if Avdet had continued reporting on calls for a boycott of the Crimean legislative election, 2014.
- The Crimean Tatar TV channel ATR received a warning in May 2015 after covering a Tatar protest. It was subject to an inspection in September 2014 by the Interior Ministry, as suspect of inciting "extremism" and "distrust towards the authorities". KGB agents regularly called the station and applied pressures, threatening it with closure.
Situation in the occupied regions of Donetsk and Luhansk
In Donetsk and Luhansk, Russian-backed separatists seized control of broadcasting infrastructure, replacing Ukrainian channels with Russian pro-Kremlin channels in both on-air and cable transmissions.
In July 2014, pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk tried to deter journalists from covering the downing of the MH17 airliner by threatening them with arbitrary detention and intimidation.
- Human rights in Ukraine
- Internet censorship and surveillance in Ukraine
- List of newspapers in Ukraine
- Media of Ukraine
- Telecommunications in Ukraine
- Television in Ukraine
- The Baltic states are the only post-Soviet statesthat Freedom House considers "free". Next to Ukraine Freedom House considers also to be "partly free" Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Georgia, Abkhazia, Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
- The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) broke into the office of a Kiev-based digital newspaper “Vesti”, physically trapping reporters and ultimately shutting down the website. Vesti News's editor-in-chief Igor Guzhva wrote on his Facebook page that the news outlet had been raided by SBU. The SBU reportedly took all servers, kept staffers in a "hot corridor" and shut down the website completely. Guzhva said that the purpose of the raid was "to block our work.". “Journalists are not being let into their office," Guzhva wrote. "Those who were already inside at the moment of the raid are being kept in the building and are not allowed to use cell phones.” Guzhva said that this is the second time in just six months that the SBU has tried to "intimidate" its editors. He added that he is unsure of the reason for the raid, but suspects that it might have to do with a story the website recently published on the SBU chief's daughter.
- On 10 February 2015, Amnesty International reported that a Ukrainian journalist, Ruslan Kotsaba, was accused and arrested by Ukrainian authorities for "treason and obstructing the military" in reaction to his statement that he would rather go to prison than be drafted by the Ukrainian Army. If found guilty he could potentially can face up to 15 year prison sentence. Amnesty International has appealed to Ukrainian authorities to free him immediately and declared Kotsaba a prisoner of conscience. Tetiana Mazur, director of Amnesty International in Ukraine stated that "the Ukrainian authorities are violating the key human right of freedom of thought, which Ukrainians stood up for on the Maidan." In response the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) declared that they have found "evidence of serious crimes" but declined to elaborate.
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