Ukrainian World Congress alarmed by recent initiatives that may harm democracy and transparency in Ukraine
The Ukrainian World Congress (UWC) and the global Ukrainian diaspora share the concerns of civil society over some recent processes in Ukraine and several proposed draft laws. The issues which have caused concern specifically include:
1. Issue of political justice
Ukrainian World Congress is troubled by recent reports about the investigation into the sensational murder of Pavlo Sheremet, and indications of political persecution of Ukrainian political leaders, including past President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko.
We underscore the importance of adhering to the principles of the rule of law and as such, of the intolerability of political justice and pressure on the judicial branch of Government. Any investigations must be conducted fully in accordance with the norms of effective laws and not guided by political decisions. This is a priority for strengthening the international image of Ukraine as a lawful state where every citizen has the right to a legal defence and a fair trial.
In addition, we note our concern over the recent appointment of Viktor Yanukovych’s former lawyer, Oleksandr Babikov, as Deputy Director of the State Bureau of Investigations (SBI). UWC shares the opinion of a considerable segment of the global Ukrainian community with respect to the inacceptability of this appointment due to the blatant conflict of interest of Mr. Babikov, and the virtual eradication of the significance and accomplishments of the Revolution of Dignity. UWC hopes for a review of the decision on this appointment, and calls for a new, transparent search for a candidate for the position, and full public disclosure of all information about the application review process to avoid any actions or decisions that destroy the reputation of SBI or raise concerns about the potential for the return of anti-democratic forces in Ukraine.
2. Initiatives in the media
- Draft law on combating disinformation, proposed by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport of Ukraine. UWC shares the concerns of media associations, civic organizations for media freedoms, National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, European Federation of Journalists, and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, that the proposed draft law foresees excessive state regulation, control and potential censorship of the media, could lay the foundation for politically motivated manipulations and negatively impact the professional self-regulation of journalists. UWC emphasizes the importance of combating disinformation, particularly under the conditions of Russian aggression. However, this cannot be accomplished by curtailing media freedoms, exercising state influence on media content or attempts at state regulation of journalistic activity in Ukraine.
- Suspending the English-language, Arabic and Crimean Tatar broadcasts of Ukrainian Television UATV. The powerful support of the international community is crucial as Ukraine continues its fight against the hybrid warfare of the Russian Federation and realizes its Euro-Atlantic aspirations while advancing reforms and modernization. Combating disinformation on a global level is only possible by reaching international audiences with factual information. UATV programming in the English, Arabic and Crimean Tatar languages has been instrumental in achieving this. Although we fully support the important initiative to create a new channel for viewers on the temporarily occupied territories, this must not, however, be a choice of “either English-language broadcasting for the international community or broadcasting for the temporarily occupied territories.” These are major parallel objectives for the information policy of the state. Therefore, the UWC calls to urgently find the means to reinstate financing for the work of the English, Arabic and Crimean Tatar broadcasts of the Ukrainian broadcaster UATV and to continue the effective strategy of communicating internationally about modern Ukraine.
3. Other legislative initiatives
- Draft Law on Land Reform in Ukraine. The UWC calls to guarantee the necessary consultations, appropriate analysis and full compliance with the required procedures prior to adopting a legislative package on land reform in Ukraine. The UWC insists on the need for well-prepared, balanced and fair decisions focused on the development of competent, productive, dignified and caring landowners.
Although all of the above-noted processes affect different spheres of life in Ukraine, in general, they indicate a curtailment and hindering of democratic processes, and thus require immediate attention to ensure that Ukraine continues to move forward with quality reforms and further democratic development.
“UWC will continue to monitor the situation and processes in Ukraine, actively working with the Ukrainian Government, international organizations, diplomatic missions and all representatives of civil society. In the framework of this cooperation UWC First Vice-President Stefan Romaniw will travel to Ukraine on a working visit January 28-31 during which he will conduct consultations with key partners on all of the issues listed above. The global Ukrainian community continues to participate in the development of reform programs in Ukraine and is prepared to provide ongoing support along this path,” noted UWC President Paul Grod.