With the publishing of the new rights repressing laws in the on-line version of Holos Ukrainy today, with effect from midnight 22 January 2014 – they become law – and so passes democracy in Ukraine.
I should certainly make the most of this last “free” entry to express my admiration for those Ukrainian people who refused to accept such Orwellian laws and the future they hold meekly. It is unfortunate that so many lions were led by lambs. Whilst dictatorship exists on the statute books effective midnight, I trust the fight for a democratic future pays such laws no heed – though I suspect the cost to be great in doing so for some.
From midnight it becomes almost impossible to publicly criticise the government or government policy in any form of media, lest it be interpreted as material around which it is intended, or quite simply is used by others to rally around regardless of intent, without the writer be prepared to be subjected to a large fine, lengthy community labour, or imprisonment.
It appears that by simply publishing anything of a political or public policy nature, I take the personal risk that others may rally around it, or include it amongst material around which they may rally, and in doing so illegally interfere with the activity of the State without being present at any rally personally.
“extremist materials shall be understood as documents on paper, electronic or any other media intended to be made public and containing extremist information, i.e., call for, substantiate, or justify the necessity for carrying out activities related to planning, organization, instigation, preparation, or commission of actions aimed at violent change or overthrow of constitutional order, encroachment on territorial integrity, inviolability, sovereignty of the state, forcible seizure or retention of power or functions of authority, illegal interference with activity or prevention of legal activity of state authorities, local self-governance authorities, other power entities, election commissions, civic associations, their officials and public officers, call for, substantiate, or justify the necessity for inciting of social, racial, national, ethnic, linguistic, or religious hostility, as well as the necessity for mass disorders, disruption of public order, hooliganism and acts of vandalism on the grounds of social, racial, national, ethnic, linguistic, or religious hostility and hatred, infringement of rights, freedoms and legal interests of persons, including direct or indirect restriction of rights or establishment of direct or indirect privileges for a person and a citizen on the basis of race, skin color, political, religious or other opinions, gender, ethnic or social background, property status, place of residence, linguistic or other characteristics, propaganda of exceptionalism, superiority or inferiority of a person (social group) on grounds of social, racial, national, ethnic, linguistic, or religious background, or attitude to religion.”
For those who do not write but read, a simple retweet or Facebook “share” may very well be interpreted by the politically controlled courts as supporting something that will then be interpreted as “illegal interference with activity or prevention of legal activity of state authorities” – be careful what you retweet and share henceforth.
It becomes difficult to avoid what will probably be deemed libel vis a vis attempts to hold people accountable:
1. Defamation, i.e. intentional dissemination of knowingly false information that disgraces the honor and dignity of another person –
shall be punishable by a fine in the amount of up to 50 non-taxable minimums of citizens’ income, or by community service for a term of up to 200 hours, or by correctional labor for a term of up to one year.
2. Defamation contained in a work of art publicly presented in mass media or online, as well as committed by a person previously convicted for defamation –
shall be punishable by a fine in the amount of up to 300 non-taxable minimums of citizens’ income, or by community service for a term of 100 to 240 hours, or by correctional labor for a term of up to one year.
3. Defamation connected with the accusations of commitment of a grave or aggravated felony –
shall be punishable by correctional labor for a term of one to two years or by restriction of liberty for a term of up to two years.
Again ironic, sarcastic or cynical media retweeted or subjected to “share” on Facebook or VK becomes problematic – when those in power and behind the power can be very thin-skinned over what amounts to what they consider disgraces the honor and dignity they perceive they have. And as “false information” is to be defined, accepted or rebuffed by politically controlled courts – There will be only one winner in any defamation case.
Naturally it follows it is now illegal make any comment on the ability or legality of a judge’s decision:
Illegal collection, storage, use, destruction, or dissemination of confidential information about a judge, his/her close relatives or family members, distribution of materials or information of a patently offensive nature and demonstrating blatant disrespect towards a judge or towards justice; pressure, intimidation or any other influence on a judge’s activities, committed with the view of revenge, interference with a judge’s official duties, or obtaining a wrongful decision; or public calls or dissemination of materials with the calls to commit such actions shall be punishable by a fine in the amount of 300 to 500 non-taxable minimum incomes, or by correctional labor for a term of up to two years, or by arrest for a term of up to six months, or by imprisonment for a term of up to two years.
So better not to do anything other than accept whatever the judge states and rules lest he deem it blatantly disrespectful landing you further in the mire.
Thus it becomes exceptionally difficult to do anything other than throw garlands at the government and applaud loudly any government official from midnight tonight in Ukraine – questioning policy publicly or attempting to hold them to account in any form of media will now carry what could be severe risks.
By logical extension, it follows that when the elections in 2015 be rigged far beyond the parameters of reasonable manipulation – on the presumption that many government critical voices are not slowly but surely “picked off” with effect from midnight over the coming months anyway – who will report it knowing that it will be deemed as material likely to incite violence, be deemed defamation and considered interference with government and the results upheld by the judiciary – all of which can also no longer be held to account publicly before the domestic constituency without severe risk of lengthy imprisonment for those who dare try?
Non-violent protest will not overturn any such electoral result just as non-violent protest (and small scale violent protest) has failed to prevent these rights crushing laws entering into force in a few hours time.
Thus having deliberately and undemocratically removed any effective remedy within the law to challenge any government decision, institutional act or individual therein – let alone change the established order in any hollow “elections” – the only effective remedy for Ukrainian society challenge anything post midnight would therefore seem to lay without. A dangerous place for Ukrainian society and the authorities alike.
It is perhaps timely to offer hollow acknowledgement to President Yanukovych on his successful reelection now – I may as well be amongst the first and do it now whilst I am “free” to do so rather than coerced into doing so once the new laws come into effect.
As for the international condemnation that will follow – what dictator takes much notice of that?
Only the most willfully ignorant cannot see the slow-moving car crash that legally begins to unfold from midnight.
Tomorrow, my first entry in what will have become a deliberately engineered legislative dictatorship with the single goal of retention of power at all costs for the current authorities.
The most grim of chapters has been opened within the Ukrainian history books of the 21st Century.