Freedoms of press in Ukraine improve, but challenges remain – Freedom House
Ukraine’s media environment has significantly improved since a change in government in 2014, and ongoing reforms continue to strengthen the legislative environment for journalists and outlets. However, there are several remaining challenges, including undue political interference in content, as well as violence, harassment, and other abuse of journalists, according to an annual report by the Freedom House human rights organization.
The government continued to strengthen media-related legislation in 2016 and implemented a number of positive reforms passed in the previous year. In June 2016, President Petro Poroshenko signed a law to facilitate transforming the country’s state radio and television companies into a public broadcaster, a process that began in 2014. The government also took steps to reduce state influence in the print sector, and passed legislation in November for the privatization of 244 print outlets, many of them regional and municipal newspapers. Separately, to comply with legislation that came into force in October 2015, broadcasters began disclosing detailed information about the identities of their owners — including ultimate beneficiaries — to the state regulator, Freedom House reported.
Journalistic access to the militant-occupied areas of Donbas regions of Donetsk and Luhansk remained restricted. Although violence against the press has significantly decreased since its peak in 2014, attacks on media professionals and houses nevertheless continued, the report says.
In July, a car bomb killed Pavlo Sheremet, who had a show on Radio Vesti and reported for the independent online paper Ukrainska Pravda. In May, the vigilante website Myrotvorets published the personal information of approximately 5,000 Ukrainian and foreign media professionals who had received accreditation from separatist authorities in Donetsk and Luhansk to report on the conflict. Several journalists reported receiving threats following the publication of the list. Although authorities opened an investigation into the case, the website continued to update the data, and also published a separate list of information about Ukrainian journalists working in Russia.
According to Freedom House, ongoing instability and violence in Donbas, as well as concerns about general Russian interference in Ukrainian affairs, continued to create tensions in the country’s political environment and affected the government’s attitude toward the media as Ukraine banned many Russian media outlets and barred dozens of Russian journalists from entering Ukraine. One of the Russian TV channels, Dozhd, broke Ukrainian legislation by showing on a map in one of its broadcasts the Crimean peninsula as part of Russia, and was subsequently banned by Ukrainian authorities.
The organization admits that the global level of press freedoms has fallen to a 13-year low against the background of unprecedented threats against journalists even in developed democracies.