22:50 16.01.2014

OSCE calls President Yanukovych to veto legislation endangering free speech, media freedom in Ukraine

Representative of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic on Thursday expressed concern about the adoption of legislative amendments in Ukraine, including re-criminalization of libel, that endanger free speech.

"I sincerely hope that President Yanukovych will veto the amendments, which might be arbitrarily interpreted and lead to disproportionate restrictions on media freedom, stifling debate and critical views," Mijatovic said in a press release published on OSCE's Web site on Thursday.

In 2001 Ukraine was "among the first OSCE participating States to decriminalize libel," the press release reads. "This important reform was the starting point for Ukraine to have one of the most liberal legal environments for media in the region," Mijatovic said. "I am worried about today's decision of Verkhovna Rada and call on the Ukrainian authorities to stop attempts to restrict free expression and free media."

Speaking about amendments introduced by Ukrainian lawmakers to the law on the National Council on Television and Radio Broadcasting that allow the president and parliament the early and arbitrary dismissal of the members of National Council, Mijatovic said the amendments undermined the independence of the broadcasting regulator.

Mijatovic also noted that the amendments had not been publicly discussed with civil society and the media community.

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