In these last weeks of the year 2021, let us talk about what draft bills can become laws in the new year. This time we will focus on the initiatives to restore state control over media and to introduce penalties for public denial of the Russian armed aggression or military occupation of a part of the Ukrainian territory.
Penalties for public denial of Russian armed aggression against Ukraine
Draft bills # 6436 and # 6436 of December 15, 2021
Sponsor: the Cabinet.
Who is affected: Ukrainian citizens, government bodies and local governments, enterprises, companies, and organizations of all forms of ownership.
Summary of the bills:
- public denial of the Russian armed aggression against Ukraine or temporary occupation of the Ukrainian territories and attempts to legalize or condone the annexation of the occupied territories will be considered an offense against the victims of the war started by Russia against Ukraine and an act dishonoring the dignity of the Ukrainian people
- public denial of the armed aggression and temporary occupation is defined as a statement addressed to two or more people that in written form or graphically denies the belonging of these territories to Ukraine
- public denial of Russia’s attempts to legalize the annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol city is defined as a statement addressed to two or more persons that denies the attempts of the Russian Federation to get legal recognition of its decision to include occupied territories as a part of the Russian Federation
- the bill introduces an administrative penalty for violating these provisions. Perpetrators will pay fines from ₴17,000 to ₴34,000 and for the second offense within a year — from ₴34,000 to ₴51,000.
What is right:
- the bill will help to counter Russian propaganda.
What is wrong:
- definition of what actions constitute a public denial of the aggression or occupation proposed by the bill is ambiguous and thus it will be hard to enforce the bill.
- to provide a clear definition of what actions constitute a public denial of the armed aggression or temporary occupation.
Creation of the State Information Concern of television and radio broadcasting
Draft bill # 6430 of December 15, 2021
Sponsor: MP Oleh Dunda, Servant of the People faction.
Who is affected: Ukrainian citizens, the Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine, the state enterprise International Broadcasting Multimedia Platform of Ukraine, and the Ukrainian state film agency.
Summary of the bill:
- creates the State Information Concern that will combine the Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine, the state enterprise International Broadcasting Multimedia Platform of Ukraine, and the Ukrainian state film agency into a stock corporation owned by the state
- the bill defines guiding principles for Concern’s work: to abide by public morals, traditions, and culture of the Ukrainian people, to promote family values and emphasize the role of a traditional family in the development of the Ukrainian society, and to prevent the spread of hostile content aiming at the destruction of Ukraine
- the Concern will be subordinate to the Cabinet that will approve and make changes to its charter
- the work of the Concern will be overseen by the Scientific and expert council that will develop terms of reference for TV programs production, assess whether the content is compliant with the terms of reference, and provide recommendations on what should be improved in TV, radio, and movie content, advise on how to broadcast them on local and national TV and radio channels
- the Scientific and expert councils will be composed of 12 members: the President, the Cabinet, the Verkhovna Rada, and the National Security and Defense Council will each appoint three of its members.
What is wrong:
- the bill reflects the authoritarian approach to information policy where the state via financial and administrative mechanisms has a significant influence on the content and form of media products consumed within the country
- the creation of the Concern ruins the reform of public broadcasting that made public broadcasters independent from government bodies
- under the proposed rules private producers will be pushed out of the market, the bill makes possible the return of censorship
- a conclusive list of powers granted to the President and the Parliament is defined in the Constitution and there is no mention about the authority to appoint members of the Scientific and expert council there
- it is unconstitutional to grant the National Security and Defense Council the right to appoint members of the Scientific and expert council: the NSDC is a consultative body under the President and has no powers of its own.
- to reject the bill
- to enhance the quality of information content using tools of public broadcasting
- to support the development of national cultural products via funding the Ukrainian Cultural Fund.
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