Posts Tagged ‘freedom of expression’

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Proposed Bill 2508 – Thou doth protest too much – or not? Civil Society up in arms (again)

July 6, 2013

Ho hum!

Not so very long ago, Bill 2450 was the subject of much ire from Ukrainian civil society – it was designed to put legal due process and parameters upon the constitutional right to freedom of assembly and the why’s and wherefores of organsied mass assembly and mass mobilisation of the public.

Bill 2450 went nowhere, but has apparently been resurrected with many core issues that drew the ire of Ukrainian civil society and unions remaining within a new draft Bill 2508 – a Bill  that is likely to be submitted to the RADA this year.

It has to be said that I have not yet seen draft Bill 2508.  However some within Ukrainian civil society that I interact with elsewhere in cyberspace claim to have seen it.

Once again those I know and claim to have seen Bill 2508 are less than impressed over issues such as having to provide the authorities 48 hours notice prior to any organised mass assembly, an absent ability to be able to prove “collective spontaneity” relating to any protest, and the abilities for the judiciary and law enforcement to refuse to allow any such organised assembly – to name but a few areas of concern.

One civil society actor I know, yesterday called Bill 2508 “the twin brother of the scandalous Bill 2450” – as I say I have yet to see the text of Bill 2508 so as yet can offer no personal comment – at the time of writing, the draft Bill 2508 has not even reached the government website.

This said,  the areas that are receiving Ukrainian civil society ire within this Bill are regulated in a very similar way within numerous EU nations – the UK for example requires a minimum of 6 days notice to the authorities for either a static protest or march – which may or may not be allowed to take place, or the march route altered by the authorities etc – per statute under Section 11 of the Public Order Act 1986.

Germany, France etc all have similar requirements.

However, civil society within the UK, Germany, France etc does not feel as though the space it is allowed to operate within by those governments is under any threat of serious shrinkage/restriction.  That cannot be said of Ukrainian civil society (whether those threats are real, perceived or out of proportion is a different matter).

raf insignia

As simplistically as it can possibly be explained, if the red circle represents the political class/State, the white circle represents civil society, mass media, NGOs, intellectuals, cultural organisations etc, and the blue circle parochial society such as religion, family or corporations, business, unions etc – the white circle within which civil society operates is very much controlled, expanded or shrunk  by how much the red circle of State and political elites are prepared to allow it to have.

In short, the current situation in Russia has a large red circle and small white one, whereas most EU nations allow significant room for civil society and thus have a large white circle .  Naturally with little trust toward political elite, Ukrainian civil society views even the remotest threat to their space via such Bills as 2508 with great suspicion and alarm.

So, is Bill 2508 a dastardly plan by Party Regions to restrict the peaceful assembly of Ukrainian society and shrink the civil society space in the process?

Apparently not.

According to those I know within Ukrainian civil society who have seen the draft of Bill 2508, it is sponsored by the following RADA MPs:  Tigipko, Miroshnichenko, Gaydosh, Camojlenko, Nemyria, Dzemilev and Lutsenko – thus numerous parties, including the opposition, are sponsoring this Bill.

To the reasonable on-looker, such a Bill, sponsored across party lines and similar in structure and requirements to many parallel laws on assembly across EU nations, would make the anticipated and repeated Ukrainian civil society backlash unreasonable given regional norms.

So, is it a case of “thou doth protest too much”?

(And regardless of how large or small the area within which any government allows civil society to operate – “doth protest too much” – or not – does not mean those within the red circle listen any better to those within the white.)

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“Uprising against the regime” – What was it I wrote about being convincing?

March 10, 2013

Only 2 days ago I wrote that it was not enough to be right or decent – but that you have to be convincing.

One way to be convincing is to earn a history of getting things right.  Another is to cleverly use words to insure that you are always right, or certainly not wrong, no matter what happens.  It is for this skill that word-smiths are paid to write clever statements and speeches of course.

There are other ways be they righteous or less so, but one sure way to leave people less than convinced is not living up to their expectations.

Those expectations, are almost always built upon the words used, promises and claims made.  Thus Arseny Yatseniuk and  Batkivshchkyna already at a disadvantage compared to UDAR and Svoboda – as the latter two parties nor their leaders (both new to the RADA) have yet to have the opportunity to so spectacularly disenchant a nation as Yatseniuk and  Batkivshchkyna have – and did – and it seems continue to do.

It appears we are going to have “a popular uprising against the regime” – in fact more than one – and in the near future – next week to be precise, according to Arseny Yatseniuk.

How exciting (and quite possibly necessary)!

But that popular uprising will only happen in certain parts of the country according to Mr Yatseniuk –  one suspects the parts where Svoboda and UDAR are strongest or  close enough to those areas where their supporters can be bussed in to make a large enough crowd to be worthy of any TV coverage  –  naturally.

Thus all the revolutionaries looking for a cause, don’t go rushing to brush off those Che Guevara berets or don V for Vendetta masks.  “Uprising against the regime”, translated from unconvincing Yatseniuk speak, means a rally where he hopes lots of people will turn up.  And “lots” recently for a Yatseniuk/ Batkivshchkyna rally is anything between 500 and 3000 people.

One has to suspect that Batkivshchkyna Party supporters now form the minority of any physical turnout at any multi-party opposition political rally, and that both Svoboda and UDAR separately, let alone combined, can now turn out far more support and for much longer periods, than Batkivshchkyna can pay students and OAPs to turn up and wave the party flag for the TV – (as is the  Batkivshchkyna and Party Regions traditional style of rent-a-crowd).

In fact if Arseny Yatseniuk or the Batkivshchkyna Party believe that Svoboda supporters turn out for anybody other than Oleh Tihanybok, or UDAR supporters for anybody other than Klitschko, they are deluded – seriously deluded!

Anyway – Mr Yatseniuk’s “uprising(s)”…. – no I am sorry, but to remain convincing and credible I will need to call it a rally/number of rallies – will aim to unite the opposition supporters behind, and entice the media with, the slogan “‘Nobody will ever overcome us. We are strong and we are heading for victory.”

Catchy, inspiring, memorable and convincing eh?  – Yes, quite – it’s awful!  Even the slogan isn’t convincing as a slogan – despite what it says is probably quite true…..eventually – There are better, more memorable and more sincere slogans in “Me to You” birthday cards.

I mean come on!  Historically I have been a Yatseniuk supporter in this blog – but he fails to convince me each day, despite his political experience at the highest level compared to the other two opposition leaders – who have no political experience at the highest level but are far more convincing as leaders.

So these uprisings rallies are apparently about going back to grass roots to get the people’s support for political and economic victory, according to Mr Yatseniuk.  Quite right – However “uprisings” within your politically friendly strongholds are not exactly going to gain any new support or change anything either.

So the question to be answered next week with regards to further building or further undermining Mr Yatseniuk’s credibility, will be whether there is indeed “a public uprising”, or even a rally with say 10,000 people present between the 3 parties.

To continue to use rhetoric that will falsely raise expectations, such as “uprising against the regime“, which in fact will be no more than a rally in all probability, will simply continue to make him less convincing if the numbers of people don’t turn up – especially so if most of the people who do turn up are supporting other leaders from other parties.

It is just fortunate that some alternative opposition parties made it into the RADA to provide an alternatives to both voters but also make up the numbers when rallies are held.

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A non-story that is a story – The missing Focus edition

February 26, 2013

Today I should perhaps be writing about yesterday’s EU-Ukraine summit – so of course I won’t be – as that will be covered to within an inch of its life by everybody else.

Instead, we will return to the freedom of the media, a tired but worthy subject and one that was no doubt touched upon directly or otherwise at the EU-Ukraine summit.

This article appeared in the weekly Focus magazine, issue number 8, 2013 – albeit temporarily:

Yanuk spending

The question is why temporarily?

The subject is the annual cost of President Yanukovych to Ukraine during 2012, in respect to his role as President.  These are not the hidden costs of lackluster leadership, failure to attract FDI, corruption, favouritism, cronyism et al, but things like security, transport and the normal expenses you would expect any head of state in incur at the expense of their nation.

A quick conversion to Euro would, according to the Focus figures, be approximately Euro 94 million.  I use the Euro simply because it is just over UAH 10 to Euro 1 and it makes the slightly more than UAH 1 billion spent far easier to understand.

A huge sum of money to spend on a head of state?  I honestly don’t know, but appears that way.  Particularly so if we are to compare it to President Kucha’s last term in office where his costs to the nation as President were never more than 50% of the above costs that are claimed by Focus.

That said, we are talking about a time lapse of almost 10 years between today and the end of the Kuchma presidency, and I can’t find any costs for the Yushenko presidency at the time of writing.  What is certain is that it is simply not a matter of inflation – though I also don’t remember President Kuchma globe trotting quite as much as the current president does – however perhaps he did and I simply forget.

Anyway, within 24 hours of this particular issue of Focus going out – it was recalled.  The on-line link to this particular page was also broken leaving any would-be reader with the “Error 404” message.

Unfortunately it appears that whomever was ultimately responsible for this decision has failed to realise that when something is published on line, removing it entirely is an impossibility as somebody somewhere will have saved such an image as soon as they saw it.  Likewise once a hard copy of the magazine has been sold, recalling every issue printed is also impossible.

Gene and bottle and all that.

So why was it recalled and links broken to this particular article on line?

Was it an editorial decision because the numbers are seriously flawed in some way, and this only came to light after publication?  That would show a degree of integrity far beyond that associated with the Ukrainian press, not withstanding the costs of recalling all printed issues and loss of sales.  Far easier to make a correction in the next issue – although that is not something the Ukrainian press are good at either – admitting when they get it wrong.

The other alternative is that pressure was put on Focus to withdraw the printed issue and break the on line links to this particular article.  Not that such action would necessarily make one conclude the figures quoted are right or wrong, as in either case, few would be surprised if pressure over such an article was put upon the owner and/or editor of Focus in such times of financial strife and severe imbalances between rich and poor across the nation – notwithstanding making President Yanukovych even more unpopular.

It seems, as of the time of writing, Focus is in a state of something similar to purdah – thus no mention of this event is being made whatsoever.  As such, whilst nobody likes to admit their mistakes, it seems more likely that this censorship of the media is not self-censorship due to error but due to external pressure.

As such, today, rather than ruminating over the EU-Ukraine summit as many will be doing, I will raise this issue instead – whilst allowing you to see what was briefly in the public domain via Focus and now back in the public domain here – whether it be accurate or not is down to the reader to either discredit or add substantiate.  I make no claims to the accuracy of the numbers quoted.

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Ukraine unveils OSCE Chair priorities for 2013

January 18, 2013

In what can only be described as an anticlimax, Ukraine officially unveiled its priorities as Chair of OSCE in 2013.

An anticlimax simply because as long ago as 20th June 2012 those priorities were being widely touted OSCE Chair issues for Ukraine – whatever!

In summary the priorities under the Ukrainian Chair are frozen/protracted conflicts amongst the OSCE nations.  Of particular importance to Ukraine is Transnistra/Transdniestria (whichever spelling you prefer) as it is a guarantor in the 5+2 entity, though that is not the only frozen/protracted conflict within the OSCE members geographical territory (Nagorno-Karabakh for example).

Anyway, notwithstanding the obvious and direct Ukrainian interest in one of the several frozen/protracted conflicts, a tick in the box of geopolitical security.

Next, human trafficking, a subject which regular readers will know is very close to my heart.  Naturally I have no complaints about this being so overt and high on the Ukrainian agenda and I will take even greater interest in this area under the Ukrainian Chair.

A tick in the box for organised crime, human rights (and geographical security depending on how broad a definition you wish to apply to “security”).

Arms control within the OSCE members.  Obviously an indirect nod to the current UN efforts.  Another tick in the box for security.

Energy and environmental consequences of energy production.  Which box doesn’t that tick?

Media freedom and youth human rights education.  Now here it is very easy to immediately look inwards at Ukraine itself – quite justifiably I would add – however lest we forget the OSCE nations seem likely to leave places like Afghanistan in 2014 and thus using the 2013 Ukrainian Chair to think about media freedom and youth human rights education in such regions would seem quite wise.

Ticks in the box of human rights, freedoms, security and education.

Why, you will ask, am I mentioning ticks in boxes?  Well hopefully this diagram (created by The Carnegie Endowment) of the OSCE organisational model will make it all very clear.

osce structure

Most of those blocks will have something to be pleased about with a 2013 priority that falls directly within their remit.

In short Ukraine quite wisely when given this opportunity, has chosen issues that will be engage it with all OSCE entities as Chair – and something that will undoubtedly have the backing of many OSCE members who have somewhat strained relations with Ukraine over other issues, as far more channels of communication directly to the very top of the Ukrainian leadership will be permanently open during 2013.

All in all, clever priority choices by Ukraine, some of which will unsettle the status quo sought by some who have previously held the OSCE Chair.

Nevertheless, opportunity presents itself for Ukraine to improve its image somewhat – as do risks if it fails to gain momentum for its priorities – as others would seem to agree– or I agree with them – whatever!

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Welcome to national(ist) politics – Svoboda attack gay and human rights demonstrators

December 13, 2012

On 8th December, it appears that members of the newly elected to parliament Svoboda Party attacked people involved in a peaceful gay and human rights demonstration in Kyiv.

The fact their members are alleged to have attacked a legally held gay and human rights demonstration is bad enough, but for it to have been seemingly praised by those within the party leadership raises questions about a United Opposition that includes Svoboda.

Naturally most will concentrate on the actions of those Svoboda Party members who carried out this pointless assault, but there are wider questions to consider in relation to how such events effect the working of the United Opposition and indeed how the EU will in turn relate to a United Opposition that includes the Svoboda Party by association.

Let us be quite clear, the EU is very, very pro human rights and gay rights as an entity, despite varying positions in the scale of support for those rights amongst its constituent sovereign parts.

Of course a balance between the right of people to support human and gay rights has to be kept with those who have the right to demonstrate to protect the old social order and non-acceptance of minority groups – but here we are talking about physical assaults in the street condoned by a political party that has only just taken up their seats in the national parliament for the very first time.

However, as part of a united opposition in parliament (if not part of the United Opposition by contract), the actions of Svoboda and its members can only reflect upon the image of the United Opposition.  Thus for the United Opposition to say and do nothing about these events may very well be seen as condoning these attacks given their political desire (and need) to keep Svoboda closely on board.

Alternatively, to take the matter in hand and attempt to discipline, distance or expel Svoboda from the United Opposition ranks by way of association and working together only a few days after a new parliament has taken its seats in coalition with Yatseniuk and Tymoshenko’s parties (amongst others), immediately displays the obvious cracks within the United Opposition and allies.

As my grandmother used to say, “shit sticks to a blanket”, and the actions of Svoboda and its members likewise will stick to the image of the United Opposition to a greater or lesser degree, unless they do something about the issue publicly by way of condemnation or disassociation.

The more such actions occur and are not admonished by this politically unholy alliance, the more all those associated with Svoboda, even if not involved directly, will be tarnished – domestically and within the eyes of the EU.

How long can Yatseniuk or other leaders of the United Opposition share a political stage and press conferences with Oleh Tyahnbok (the leader of Svoboda) when such actions are carried out by his party members and openly supported by his party leadership and possibly even himself in the years ahead without saying or doing something about it?

How long before EU representatives would refuse to meet with the Ukrainian opposition if Svoboda representatives are present should such attacks on EU priority issues like gay and human rights continue?

How difficult will it be for the EU to totally get behind the opposition when core social and idealogical EU themes are being attacked, physically, by a party within the united Ukrainian opposition ranks in the streets quite overtly?

The actual attacks in Kyiv are abhorrent, the political knock-on effects may yet be great or small – both domestically and beyond.

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Pouring oil on troubled waters – EU Ambassador to Ukraine

October 19, 2012

The new head of the EU Delegation to Ukraine, (Ambassador for want of a better analogy), Jan Tombinski, seems to be doing his very best to pour oil on the somewhat choppy waters between Ukraine and the EU in efforts to smooth matters between the two sides to some degree.

He recently gave a press conference stating that he did not see any censorship in Ukraine whatsoever.  “Considering what I have seen in here, I can say that there is no censorship and that there is complete freedom of self-expression in Ukraine.”  Music to the ears of the current government who have consistently denied censorship and denying freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

He did however qualify that comments by stating “Of course you can say whatever you want on YouTube.  But that is not the same as access to state television and other media”.

In short, you can say and express yourself as you like in Ukraine, but there is a good chance that it would be like doing so to an almost empty auditorium if you struggle getting access to main stream media time.

Nevertheless, the authorities will surely point Freedom House, Reporters Without Borders and numerous other NGOs and civil liberties groups to that statement in the future – together with the Freedom House ranking of Ukraine as “Free” with regards to its Internet status.

No matter how it is spun, a serious and highly placed EU diplomat has stated there is no censorship – on the record – and that will please the authorities.

He also added that the Ukrainian media seems far more intent of agitating the population than in forming its opinions – a necessary swipe at the media to be quite honest and a very true statement when time is taken to take a step back and look at what the Ukrainian media actually does (compared to what it should be doing) and how it achieves it.

Mr Tombinski also stated that sanctions against Ukraine were not the way to go.  To be honest I wasn’t aware of any serious threats of sanctions against Ukraine or against any Ukrainians individually.  Yes there have been suggestions from the opposition and a few EU MEPs that sanctions should be considered for certain Ukrainians in the government and judiciary over Ms Tymoshenko, but to be quite honest I am not aware of any serious traction within the EU that would make such suggestions a reality.  Certainly no contacts within Brussels I have indicate there is much traction as yet.

Yet more good news for the authorities and quite contrary to the statements issued by certain bodies within the US recently.

Lastly, it seems Mr Tombinski sees some movement, however glacial, with regards to the DCFTA and AA between the EU and Ukraine.  Now we are not talking about signing or ratification, we are talking about the technicalities of the AA document.  These technicalities should be completed and approved by both sides possibly by the end of November, but certainly by the year end.

Again something that would appear to give the current authorities the appearance that slow as progress may be, it has not completely stopped – yet.

Quite a press conference 12 days before the parliamentary elections in Ukraine when it comes to putting some international wind (no matter how little) into the sails of the current government, with some favourable EU comments for the media as a bonus.

So why and why now?

Why, well if that is the opinion of Mr Tombrinski then that is his opinion and he has a right and a duty to express it.

I happen to agree with him over his comments about freedom of expression and the Ukrainian media generally speaking.

I also agree that sanctions are simply not warranted at the present time.  That may change in the future as far as some individuals are concerned, but for now it is too soon to consider them seriously.

I know nothing of the technicalities still to be settled within the AA between the EU and Ukraine, but if there is still progress, then very good.

But why now?  Why make such statements 12 days before the parliamentary elections?  (They were made on 16th October).

Granted, he could not have made such statements much earlier as he has not been in post very long and there needs to be time to assess the situation on the ground, rather than just accepting the oft visceral reporting written in the media – which as he points out is not doing its job particularly well.

Could and should his statements have been left until after the elections?

If not, why not?

Having been in and around diplomatic circles for so long, I cannot to fail to take notice of something so basic as timing.

A calming of waters between the EU and Ukraine in the realisation that the current government will continue to hold power after the elections?

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What weight to give the on-line debate? Freedom of Speech – Freedom House “Freedom of the Net report” and Ukrainian elections

September 26, 2012

For the first time, Ukraine has been included in the Freedom House, Freedom of the Net report.  Ukraine was ranked as being “Free”.

And, well why wouldn’t it be?  No bloggers have been arrested, there is no political interference that is noticeable, and no Internet applications are blocked by the government.

Further, the Ukrainian forums are very vibrant regardless of their subject, and especially so with issues of politics and policy, be it at local or national level.

All jolly good and a credit to governments past and present in equal measure.  Credit also for the ever increasing coverage around the nation by whatever method it is achieved.  Free wifi exists at almost all reasonable restaurants and cafes, an example that establishment owners of similar premises in the UK could do with following.

So how does this “free” Internet status sit along side the “partly free” status of the media as deemed by Freedom House?

As they rightly point out, the Internet content in Ukraine is not subject to political interference.  I can read domestic and international news and views relating to Ukraine without hindrance – as can more and more people in Ukraine be it via computers or mobile telephones, the ever increasing coverage allowing.

With more and more public content, be it generated by professional journalists or one person with a laptop sat somewhere in Ukraine who sees something interesting and writes about it, or uploads footage of it, printed media, radio and television are losing an ever increasing part of the media/news market.

Not a situation peculiar to Ukraine it has to be said.

However, how do such things equate in the OSCE electoral observations?

Aside from the more traditional media, I follow numerous journalists, politicians of all colours and stripes, commentators, academics and think tanks on facebook, VK, Live Journal, LinkedIn, twitter and futubra to name but a few social networking sites I use to keep track of who is doing what, where, when, how and why.  Not to mention official websites and other virtual platforms.

And then there are the Ukrainian forums of which I am a member.

I have recently been watching much more television than normal, simply to monitor several national television stations relating to the amount of time those running in the forthcoming elections are getting.  An attempt to see if there has been equal access for all concerned – or there or there abouts.  So far, no major issues relating to time or exposure on the national channels I have chosen to monitor, but there is time for that to change of course.

The regional channels however are quite obviously skewed in favour on the United Opposition on Odessa TV for example, and Party Regions on Grad TV when it comes to time and exposure.  Art TV is skewed towards Party Rodina.   That said, across all the Odessa regional channels, whilst individual channels may be skewed, on the whole, the regional broadcasters seem to be there or there abouts when offsetting one against another.

So how does the “free” net freedom status offset the “partly free” status of the media when OSCE monitoring?  How is it weighted?  It must surely be considered and in this medium, certainly the United Opposition have no problem with access or making their case.  I follow numerous United Opposition MPs, the United Opposition facebook election page, official party websites etc and my email inbox is consistently receiving mail stating new content from the United Opposition.

In fact, to doff my cap where necessary, the United Opposition are far more competent with the Internet than the current ruling coalition.  Unfortunately much of the content they produce is about as inspiring as the Yatseniuk led rally I attended in Odessa only last week.  In short, not content likely to win an election or increase their voter turnout – which is rather sad and self-defeating when all is said and done.

Looking forwards, not only relating to Ukraine but other OSCE nations, as more and more potential voters dump the traditional media for the Internet, how easy is it to monitor “equal media access”?  How can you identify those responsible for a DDoS on a rival party website?  Would trolling and/or spamming become a form of “political interference” during any official electioneering period?  How easy it is to identify a troll rather than a genuine commentator who disagrees with the content?  At what point do you acknowledge that the Internet, rather than traditional media, has become the main source of electoral information/disinformation/propaganda?

Difficult issues to address on the horizon.

Anyway, one of the issues to monitor after the October elections when it comes to OSCE reports, will be the weight, if any, they attach to an Internet free of political interference given its ever increasing prominence in Ukraine.

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Criminalisation of defamation – Ukraine

September 24, 2012

Well, much has been written in the Ukrainian press, many horrified tweets from Ukrainian journalists on twitter, (at least amongst those I follow and those that follow me), and many paragraphs have been blogged about the passing at the first reading, of the law to re-criminalise defamation (libel and slander).

I briefly mentioned it a few days ago and stated I would return to the subject.  Today I do just that, despite the fact that I usually stay well clear of mainstream headline news.

Now to be quite clear, I hold the steadfast and robust belief that defamation, libel and slander are not, and never ever should be criminal offences.  However, there must be necessarily civil recourse for completely false, scurrilous, inaccurate, besmirching of the character of both individual or entity.  If not, then the responsibility inherent to having free speech naturally, and rightly, comes under attack by those wronged.

After all, it is not defamation to ridicule or shame an individual or corporation, despite using ridiculing and shaming words, if those words are based on fact, truth and evidence thereof.  Only when such ridicule and shaming is based on lies and falsehoods does defamation occur.

However, this blog entry is not about the philosophical, moral or ethical limits of free speech.  It is not about the remedies, or lack thereof, available for those who are genuinely slandered, libeled and defamed.  Neither is it about the standards, or lack thereof, of journalists and editors across Ukraine – at least directly.

Today I am going to ponder the effects that the new law, if passed, and there is no guarantee it will be, would have on this blog in particular.

Prima facie, it would have none.  I go to great lengths to insure that anything remotely defamatory in the widest sense of the word, is backed up by quotes, citations, legal judgments etc.  All basic stuff for anybody remotely academic or who has written anything remotely academic.

There are a lot of things I could blog about that I simply don’t for one reason or another.  Very occasionally I invoke the Chatham House Rule, but state as much, when using what has been said but protecting the identity of those that have made the remarks in order to have a more rounded blog entry to read.  More often than not, it is not necessary to invoke the aforementioned rule.

However, that covers what I write, and not what is written in any comments that appear.

Now I have some rules of my own when it comes to comments.  The first and most steadfast rule is that I do not allow any comments sent from a commercial/corporate email address.  Amongst the more than 20,000 comments to blog entries I have made, almost 19,000 have never been published, despite some very good and very wise observations.  In almost all cases the reason is the commentators have used corporate/commercial email addresses – and I will not allow this blog to be used for free/second tier advertising.

I am far more likely to allow ping-backs from corporate bodies, and indeed have done so for many on-line regional newspapers and civil society organisations.  In short, they can quote me, they may even syndicate me, but all such things lead back to this blog when they do so.

So far so good in respect of the proposed new law with regards to what I write and the majority of comments.  However, there is then the issue of the comments from the private email addresses which I would consider publishing as they are not trying to get free advertising by the back door.  A lot of those have also never been published because they are either trolls, are spam, or are quite obviously defamatory and deliberately written to be so.

I am too old to entertain idiots and there really is no need to write like an idiot to make an argument for or against an issue.  It is at my discretion which comments are published and which are not.  Thus anybody who wants to comment here has their freedom of speech subjected to my whim – and that may well be an issue for me under any new proposals – because I have control not only over what I write, but also the comments I allow to be published.

Having read the new proposals, it remains unclear whether I will be responsible for any comments published that are not written by me.  They are, after all, published only by my allowing them to be, and hence the rather high bar I already have in place for comments – with or without any proposed changes to defamation legislation.

Quite obviously, I believe I do have a responsibility over what appears here, even in the comments section, or I would not act as I do.  Others entities though, may think differently when it comes to their comments section, and if that is their policy who am I to argue?

Quite how I would be held to account is another matter.  I write under a pseudonym/nom de plume and always have, and the blog is hosted in the USA.  To hide my IP is not a difficult thing to do, despite the fact I currently do not.  The few thousand readers I have are not really enough to concern anybody in the grand scheme of things either.  Thus to trace me, prosecute me etc, would be more trouble than it is worth should I suddenly become less considered in what I write or allow to be published by way of comments.  In fact any attempt to do so may well increase rather than decrease the profile of this blog.

Neither would the new law necessarily prevent any libelous tweets, facebook or VK entries, again all of which were created under my pseudonym/nom de plume and are all hosted outside of Ukraine.  I could also write libelous and defamatory material on any number of Ukrainian forums of which I am a member and thus, possibly, give the administrators and moderators a dilemma.

To repeat, my view is that defamation, libel and slander should never be a criminal offence.  However, if what is stated for public consumption has supporting evidence, it should not matter whether the course of redress is civil or criminal.  The writer, editor and publisher would be sure of their ground anyway.

I hope that Ukraine will not revert to 2001 when defamation was a criminal offence, but it has to be said that I also have a hope that the standard of reporting also increases where appropriate, as some of it is still rather poor on occasion.  As I have previously written here, to ridicule, shame, and be contemptuous towards another individual or entity is simply not defamation if there is evidence, facts and truths to back up the specifics of what is written.

In the meantime, whatever happens, any comments that may appear here, or not, are still subject to my whim!

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