UKRAINE: Ukrainian Court Postpones Hearing on Suspension of Media Licenses - Decision Follows IPI Open letter to President Yanukovych

UKRAINE, 20/08/2010

Ukraine's Kiev Administrative Court of Appeals has postponed a 16 August hearing on the withdrawal of frequencies from a number of television channels, including TVi and Channel 5. The new date for the hearing has been set for 26 August.

The director of TVi, Mykola Kniazhytsky, told IPI that the official reason for the postponement of the trial date was that not all the concerned parties were present, and that they had not received the mandated seven days of notice. However, Kniazhytsky expressed the opinion that building international pressure may have had an impact on the court's decision. 

"The attention of international organizations influenced the (court's) decision not to ignore the proper legal procedure", he told IPI in a telephone interview. 

Concern over the deterioration of press freedom in Ukraine has been growing. In an open letter to President Viktor Yanukovych last week, IPI called attention to a rise in attacks on journalists along with a growing climate of impunity, and in expressed particular concern about the license allocation issue. 

Local Ukrainian media reported that President Yanukovych responded to IPI in a statement on a government website. He was reported as saying that he was interested in "Ukraine's having as many as possible new independent TV channels," but that he, "as a citizen and the Guarantor of the Constitution, has no right to influence the courts that issued decisions on TV channels TVi and Channel 5." 

He was quoted as adding: "I wish we would not engage in propaganda, impose our vision on journalists, but let them simply truthfully cover the life of society." 

IPI Press Freedom and Communications Manager Anthony Mills said: "We reiterate our call on the Ukrainian authorities to ensure that the hearing on TV licenses is transparent and fair, and to identify and bring to justice those who attack journalists." 

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) fully supports this statement.

****For further information, please contact:

Mirjana Milosevic
SEEMO Press Freedom Coordinator
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
E-mail: info@seemo.org 
Web: www.seemo.org

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