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16 January, 2014 18:26   ▪  

Media Law Institute: The government ruins the remaining fragments of democracy and imposes a tough authoritarian regime

Passed by the Party of Regions’ and Communist Party MPs in a hand vote, amendments to the Law on the Judiciary and the Status of Judges and procedural laws on additional measures for citizen protection and security may ultimately crush human rights in Ukraine, the Media Law Institute says in a statement

The Media Law Institute claims that the law passed by the parliamentary majority sets significant restrictions on the freedom of expression and assembly.

“The law entails criminal responsibility for the so-called “extremist activity”,” the Media Law Institute comments. “Anyone can be held liable whenever law enforcers find that such person owns documents for publication that contain information of extremist nature. According to the provisions and the notes to the law, any individual who posts historical information, particularly a photograph, postcard or an analytical piece, risks being jailed for 3 years,” the Institute stresses. "

“Also, 12 years after decriminalization, the article on libel was returned to the Criminal Code. Now, any individual in Ukraine can be jailed for spreading libel. Moreover, the law entails huge fines for online media that operate without registration. And it allows Internet providers to block access to websites. Provision of access to the Internet will now require a separate license,” the statement says.

The statement notes that, from now on, Ukrainians will not be allowed to “publish photographs of luxury estates, cars and watches, because the one who publishes it may be sentenced to community service or arrest for up to 6 months.”

“Individuals will also be prohibited from spreading information on illegal actions of police or prosecution officers because this activity will qualify as ‘insulting information’ or information that ‘demonstrates disrespect for a law enforcement employee and affects the latter in any form’” the Institute’s statement adds.

The law deprives TV and radio regulator of independence by “entitling the parliament and president that appointed members of the National Television and Radio Council to dismiss them at any moment, including at times when they refuse to issue licenses to specified TV and radio companies”.

“The law also bans prepaid sim cards for cell phones. It requires all subscribers to sign contracts with mobile operators, thus allowing total surveillance over anyone,” the statement claims.

“The law crushes the remaining fragments of Ukrainian democracy and establishes tough authoritarian regime in Ukraine. The fact that it was passed shows that the government plans to hold a tough and brutal election in 2015 and passes laws to suppress protests and ensure that it stays in power,” the Media Law Institute statement says.

Today, on January 16, the pro-government majority in the Verkhovna Rada hand voted for the 2014 budget without discussing it previously in parliament. After this, MPs began to vote for other laws. They did not use the Rada electronic vote counting system as the parliament was blocked by the opposition. The opposition did not vote for the laws. 

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