Since protests sparked by former President Yanukovych’s decision to decline a long-negotiated association agreement with the EU erupted in November 2013, the situation has developed into a full-blown conflict with Russia and Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine saw an immediate deterioration of human rights and freedom of expression in late 2013 which carried into 2014. This was brought on by the authorities’ attacks on journalists, renewed censorship of national TV channels and the introduction of restrictive laws on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, which have later been retracted.
Since former president Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted on 22 February 2014, there has been an improvement in the climate for free expression at the government level with two promising laws adopted by the transitional government in spring 2014. The public service broadcasting law indicates the government’s aimto institutionally secure media pluralism in Ukraine. The second law seeks to expand the right of every person to access public information held by the government or government agencies and fines have been introduced for failing to respond to information requests.
Due to the incredibly challenging political environment, the media in Ukraine has taken on several structural and cultural changes, including a diversification of news outlets and reporting. One of these changes that the EuroMaidan protests brought with it is a trend towards greater use of news sources on the internet in addition to those on TV.
IMS has worked to support media in Ukraine since May 2008 focusing on drafting and reforming media legislation in the areas of public service broadcasting, transparency of media ownership, access to information, and reforming state print media. IMS current priorities in the country include: capacity building of media lawyers, legal protection of journalists and further enhancement of access to information. This is done in close partnership with national and international partners.
The IMS Programme for Ukraine has achieved the following since the launch of the Programme in May 2008:
- Law on Access to Public Information and necessary sub-legislation adopted by the Parliament.
- New website developed for the National Council on TV and Radio to ensure more transparency of media ownership.
- More than 130 lawyers from different CIS countries have completed 3-week intensive training course in international media law standards.
- More than 20 lawyers trained in strategic litigation, more than 50 participants have been trained to be trainers in the new access to information legislation, more than 250 people trained in access to information.
- Two forums of access to information activists convened gathering more than 50 participants each.