Draft bills on media and access to free legal aid

02 September 2022
Draft bills on media and access to free legal aid
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MPs adopted in the first reading a disputable draft bill on media required for EU membership and a bill ensuring easier access to free legal aid. 

The draft bill on media 

Draft bill # 2693-d of July 2, 2022 

Status: adopted in the first reading. MPs still have time to amend the bill. 

Who is affected: citizens, media groups, media, journalists, members of the National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting, government bodies, local governments, political parties, and candidates for political offices. 

Summary of the bill: 

  • the following requirements will be introduced to ensure transparency of media ownership: 
  • the following information is to be disclosed: 
  • ownership structure: information about all persons who have direct or indirect ownership of the media company or a power to influence its management 
  • key participants of the media company and all key legal entities holding corporate rights 
  • connections between these persons 
  • trusts will be unable to become qualifying shareholding owners of any media at any level 
  • offshore legal entities will not be allowed to be qualifying shareholding owners of media companies. 
  • more safeguards will be introduced to protect children from harmful media content: providers will be responsible for preventing the distribution of such content and online media will be obliged to inform about a supposedly harmful content 
  • penalties for violating the required quota for Ukrainian music on radio will be changed: if a broadcaster fails to fulfill the quota by more than 10%, it gets a fine, if less than 10% — it gets a warning. After more than five such warnings — a fine 
  • media will be obliged to retract if they spread false information. The bill defines a retracting procedure. An interested party will be able to request a retraction within 20 days after the allegedly false information has been published. The media will have to consider the request within 14 days. If the request is denied, the interested party will be able to appeal to a court 
  • the list of persons presenting a threat to the national media sphere will be approved and kept by the Council. The Council will include persons in the list at the request of the National Security and Defense Council, the Security Service, the police, or the Council itself if such a person is under sanctions, committed a crime, is a suspect in criminal proceedings, etc. 
  • for the first time in Ukraine, online media will be regulated 
  • a new procedure to hold printed media accountable will be introduced. The Council will consider complaints, look for violations as a part of its monitoring activities, and decide whether a particular media is breaking the law. Websites may be blocked as a penalty for such violations 
  • participants of the media market will be able to use the mechanism of coregulation and agree on detailed codes of broadcasting without engaging the Council. Thus, part of the problems of the mediasphere will be solved by media self-organization 
  • regulations on election campaigns will be updated. In particular, the media will be obliged to publish information about the election campaign without distortions, information about election participants — without ungrounded favoritism, and information about candidates and parties — in a balanced manner. The bill also provisions that legal requirements for content, form, markings, restrictions, and sources of funding also apply to online electioneering  
  • online cinemas of the aggressor state will be outlawed in Ukraine. 

What is right: 

  • the draft bill is a prerequisite for Ukraine as a candidate member state of the European Union. The EU Mission to Ukraine welcomed Parliament’s intention to consider this draft bill. The European Council urged Ukraine to consider a new draft bill on media back in 2020. 
  • Ukrainian legislation will become compliant with the European Convention on transfrontier television program service and the Audiovisual media services directive 
  • media will have more self-regulation. 

What is wrong: 

  • members of the National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting are dependent on politicians. The President and the Parliament each appoint half of the members of the regulator and thus its independence is doubtful. However, only changes to the Constitution can change the appointment procedure 
  • candidates for the National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting nominated by the Parliament are dependent on parliamentary factions. Only factions and not individual MPs can nominate candidates for the Council so the nomination of independent candidates is significantly limited. 

What’s next: 

  • period for submitting amendments and proposals to the bill has been prolonged by 21 days. The Parliament seldom uses this procedure 
  • MPs expect to get a resolution on the draft bill from the European Commission in September. 

Easier access to free legal aid 

Draft bill # 7473-d of August 9, 2022 

Status: adopted in the first reading. MPs still have time to amend the bill. 

Who is affected: citizens, lawyers, judges, incapable persons, persons with limited capacity, children, detainees, IDPs, and low-income individuals. 

Summary of the bill: 

  • an order from a body providing free legal aid will be recognized as a document certifying a lawyer’s mandate. Currently, a lawyer’s mandate as a legal representative is recognized only based on a warrant or lawyer’s order 
  • cases about limiting civic capability, mandatory psychiatric treatment, and mandatory hospitalization to T.B. medical facilities will require the presence of a lawyer 
  • lawyers and other legal professionals will be allowed to provide free legal aid 
  • persons with limited capacity and incapable persons will be allowed to request free primary legal aid concerning the issues they are allowed to raise before the court personally (and not only through their wards) 
  • the right for free legal aid will have low-income individuals, children of full legal age, persons under administrative arrest or detention, detainees in criminal proceedings, IDPs, persons living on temporarily occupied territories, victims of crimes against sexual freedom or human trafficking, etc. 

What is right: 

  • better access to primary and secondary legal aid. This will give better human rights protection in courts and criminal investigations 
  • better protection of rights of citizens with limited capabilities and incapable citizens who are often dependent on their wards and limited in their rights.