A Ukrainian television station, which had its broadcast frequencies cancelled over allegations of irregularities in the manner in which the stations were awarded their licences, has decided not to abide by the decision and will continue its terrestrial broadcasts.
Channel TVi called the action by the National Council of Ukraine on Television and Radio Broadcasting - which issues the licences - "unfounded persecution" after a warning issued on 22 September to television company Skhind + (East +) in the city Slavyanska, which legally re-broadcastsTVi's programmes.
Citing article 45-1 of the Law of Ukraine "About Information", TVi Chief Executive Mykola Kniazhytskyi said in a statement sent to the International Press Institute:
"In accordance with current legislation of Ukraine, we do not consider the decision of the National Council of Ukraine on Television and Radio Broadcasting to revoke amendments to our license a sufficient cause for termination of our terrestrial broadcast".
"We will continue to broadcast … [and work] to prevent further imposition of censorship in Ukraine … We're not sticking our head in the sand, but we won't give up without a fight," Kniazhytskyi told IPI.
Concern for press freedom in Ukraine has risen in recent months. In August, both TVi and 5 Kanal had some or all of their licences revoked due to alleged irregularities. Owner of rival media holding Inter Media Group and head of the Ukrainian Security Service, Valeriy Khoroshkovsky, was accused by 5 Kanal of influencing the decision to remove licences. Khoroshkovsky has strongly refuted the allegations.
IPI Press Freedom Manager Anthony Mills said: "We reiterate our concern at continuing efforts to silence TVi in particular, and independent broadcasters in general. A diverse and critical media is the cornerstone of democracy and we remain deeply perturbed by the deterioration of media freedom in Ukraine."
In an open letter to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in August, IPI called attention to a rise in attacks on journalists along with a growing climate of impunity, as well as the TVi/5 Kanal court case. Although President Yanukovych commented on the letter indirectly to the Ukrainian media, IPI has yet to receive a direct response.
Also in August, editor and investigative reporter Vasyl Klymentyev went missing. He has since been presumed murdered. Interior Minister Anatoly Mogylyov was quoted by the media as indicating that he believed the local authorities to be behind the journalist's death and that it could have been linked to his reporting.
The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) fully supports this statement.
****For further information, please contact:
SEEMO Press Freedom Coordinator
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)