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OSCE Representative concerned about Ukrainian parliament’s call for sanctions against and potential blocking of two television channels

VIENNA, 4 October 2018 – The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir, expressed his deep concern today about a decision by Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, that calls for sanctions against two Ukrainian television channels, which would eventually terminate their activities.

“I would like to reiterate that freedom of expression and freedom of the media are fundamental commitments of the OSCE participating States, which should be respected and fulfilled,” said Désir. “Any restrictions imposed on these rights, including in the name of protecting national security or countering propaganda, should be strictly limited in scope, proportional, and provide for adequate safeguards against abuse through an independent court system. I am deeply concerned about any future decision of terminating or potentially blocking the regular functioning of media in Ukraine.”

The Verkhovna Rada today adopted a resolution proposing that the National Security Council of Ukraine introduce personal and economic sanctions against seven legal entities, which own and control the Ukrainian television channels 112 and NewsOne. The resolution, among other things, broadly suggests cancelling or suspending the broadcast licences granted to these legal entities, banning their use of radio frequencies, and restricting or terminating the provision of telecommunication services and the use of telecommunication networks by these legal entities.

The Representative recalled that the best and most effective mechanism to neutralize the impact of propaganda is the existence of an open, diverse and dynamic media environment.

If propaganda amounts to incitement to hatred and violence, proper and proportionate measures may be applied using available judicial and human rights instruments.

“I call on the Ukrainian authorities to refrain from taking disproportionately restrictive measures toward the media without following the proper judicial procedures, which would adversely impact the free flow and access to information, and impede the expression of diversity of opinions,” said Désir.

The Representative has intervened on the issue of sanctions deployed against media outlets on a number of occasions in the past. His statement is available at: https://www.osce.org/representative-on-freedom-of-media/382522.