Two boys take part in the Euromaidan demonstrations on 1 December 2013. Photo: Alexandra Gnatoush
A new law adopted on 16 January by Ukraine’s Parliament, introduces severe limitations on human rights, including the freedom of speech and of assembly, and introduces obligatory registration of NGOs that receive foreign funding as “foreign agents”, according to civil society organisations. “This law totally destroys the very remains of Ukrainian democracy and establishes a harsh autocratic regime in Ukraine,” says Media Law Institute in Kyiv in a statement
The draft law 3879 which was drawn up by Vadym Kolesnichenko and Volodymyr Oliynyk, members of the pro-government Party of Regions faction, introduces significant amendments into a series of Ukrainian laws, including the Criminal Code, the law on Civil Society Organisations, the law on the judiciary and many others. The new law is more than 30 pages long and among other new features significantly limits the freedom to peaceful assembly and protest. It re-criminalises defamation which was decriminalised in Ukraine 12 years ago and introduces obligatory registration of NGOs receiving foreign funding as “foreign agents”, modelling Russia’s law on foreign agents and obliges those NGOs to pay taxes.
Ukrainian civil society claims that the law is aimed at destroying the very remains of the Ukrainian democracy and is deeply concerned about the consequences that this new law may have for the future democratic development of the country. Read Media Law Institute’s statement on the new legislation here.
Restrictions on freedom of speech
The wording in the law defining extremism may include the dissemination of historical material like photos. Considerable fines are introduced for online media that do not have the correct registration, a provision seen to specifically target newly emerged online media initiatives and the law bans collection and dissemination of any information about judges and law enforcement officials, a move which would make any anti-corruption advocacy illegal. The new law also entitles Parliament and the President to dismiss members of the national broadcasting regulator at any time. Read an update of the situation of media in the country here.
The law now awaits the Presidential signature in order for it to come into force and to bring Ukraine into close proximity of its neighbours Belarus and Russia vis-à-vis legal restrictions imposed on basic rights and freedoms, as well as on the functioning of civil society and media.