Archive for May 5th, 2010


Freedom of Speech and Ukraine

May 5, 2010

Well dear readers, one of the  issues which is hanging around like a bad smell in Ukraine is the subject of freedom of speech.

Yulia Tymoshenko is consistantly whittering that she is not getting air time on a particular show…….whilst getting air time everywhere else and even on the same channel……despite the fact she is no longer an MP.  The MP who was nominated to lead her party (now she is no longer an MP) does get air time on the show she is complaining she gets no time on however. 

50 journalists in Lviv are demanding the resignation of the State Prosecuter General because their editor was forcibly taken from his home to appear before tax officials…….having ignored 3 summonses to attend.  It is fair to say the media outlet in question is hardly supportive of the current administration.

The press here print anything they like and are certainly more free in accusation without evidence than any press in other nations as it seems libel and slander laws……..are for other people. 

The politicians are no better in this regard.

The current President is getting a lot of international flack……however the Institute for Mass Media and Independent Media Union in Ukraine only place the President as the nations 10th worst offender when it comes to media manipulation and curbing freedom of speech.

Sitting at number 3 in the worst offenders list is………Yulia Tymoshenko……the individual now claiming to be champion of freedom of speech!

I kid you not, here it is…… Ukrainian………

“На третє місце списку потрапила колишній прем’єр-міністр України Юлія Тимошенко, яка в грудні минулого року не захотіла, щоб у програмі Євгена Кисельова разом з нею перебували журналісти Олександр Чаленко (газета Сегодня), Сергій Лещенко (Українська правда) і телеведучий Роман Скрипін (ТВі ).”

Where is the international concern over this?  Where was it when she was Prime Minister?  For certain draconian incidents with journalists occured on her watch…….I witnessed one in Odessa!

There are numerous issues here of course.

Freedom of speech is a fundimental right.  That freedom of speech however is not more free for a journalist than it is for me.  They should not have any special status or additional protection from reprocussions when writing factless accusations without evidence to back it up, without due consideration for prosecution under libel or slander laws.

I am responsible for everything that appears on this blog.  I am responsible for any comments I allow to be placed under any of my posts.  If I allow anything slanderous or libelous to be circulated via the Internet in a domain I control and edit, then I am ultimately responsible for it.

Should I have additional protection from the law because I am a frequent blogger?  Should those which pingback to my blog and use its contents in their newspapers (thank you Azerbaijan Today) be spared any form of retraction or legal prosecution by reprinting what I write?

Of course not is the answer. 

The issue with freedom of speech when it comes to media outlets for general publication is that it requires responsible journalism…….and that means checking facts or allocating responsiblility for certain accusations to the people who make them.  Any editorial comment thereafter should qualify opinion with ascertainable facts……..not irresponisble diatribe based soley upon personal bias being passed off as the Gospel according to whatever media outlet.

Freedom of speech should be absolute in any nation, but it does not give professional journalists any special rights or protection over bloggers like me……..and neither should it.  You can argue over the protection of the identity of “sources”……..however a professional journalist must establish the credibility of the source and corroborate what the source states as far as is possible……..before you publish libelous or air slanderous comments.

Having run “registered informants” in the UK……informants and sources are one and the same thing.  You must always question their motivation for what they do and what they are telling you.  Their credibility needs to be checked time and again.  The most common motivation for “sources” are personal gain, revenge, self-esteem or some form of protection from the law itself.  Not many “good citizens” are amongst the better “sources”……so it makes corroboration essential before acting upon information from a “source”……..unless you are a journalist in Ukraine of course! 

It is particularly true that corroboration and evidence be required from politicians in Ukraine as self-esteem, revenge and personal gain is what these people are all about!

There is a line between freedom of speech……..slander and libel.  It is a line that the journalists and editors, even the foreign ones, seem to completely ignore in Ukraine. 

I have said many times the standard of journalism in Ukraine is……..very bad…….but even the foreign owned media here is selective with facts (if they include any in the first place) and pay no regard to the libelous comments by their readers under their “work”.

With freedom of speech comes responsibility…….and Ukrainian journalism is simply not a responsible body of “professionals” judging by what appears in the media.

Of course any inforcement of slander or libel laws will be seen as a crack down on free speech……but not to do so will perpetuate the continual cycle of mis-information, factless based accusations and exceptional poor journalistic standards.

A difficult position for anyone in authority in a nation like Ukraine.

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