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REGIONS:

TV station harassed



(CPJ/IFEX) - CPJ is greatly troubled by the ongoing official harassment of
STB TV, an independent station that reaches eighty percent of the
television-watching population of Ukraine.





**Updates IFEX alerts of 28 July, 9 June and 5 March 1999**

For nearly six months, STB has endured repeated hostile inspections by at
least nine government agencies, including a number of random tax audits by
municipal tax authorities. The bureaucratic scrutiny intensified recently,
as the channel boosts its presidential campaign coverage during the runup to
the 31 October 1999 election. Unlike state-run television, STB has granted
air time to President Leonid Kuchma's political opponents.

On 26 August, local tax officials froze STB's bank accounts at UkrExImBank,
claiming the station had failed to submit tax documents on time. But the
station's lawyers say many of the documents demanded by tax inspectors had
already been requisitioned by the state radio and television broadcasting
committee, which is also investigating STB. It was thus physically
impossible for STB to comply with the tax inspectors' demands.

With its bank accounts frozen, STB has been forced to suspend production of
a new programme about the Ukrainian parliament, which serves as a platform
for several rival presidential candidates. With no access to operating
capital, it may be forced to lay off some or all of its 3000 employees. And
if STB fails to pay for transmission services this month, the station may be
forced off the air altogether.

STB has filed suit against the state tax administration and the state
frequency commission, charging that these two agencies are engaging in a
coordinated campaign of harassment designed to put the station out of
business.

President Kuchma's government's crackdown against STB is part of an alarming
trend of state harassment directed against opposition and independent news
media in Ukraine. Media that provide favorable coverage of his activities
are not subjected to the hostile bureaucratic scrutiny suffered by media
that do not.

Recommended Action


Send appeals to the president:
  • strongly protesting his government's campaign against STB TV, which may
    result in its closure less than a month before the 31 October presidential
    election
  • noting that this latest attempt to silence independent voices violates
    all
    his country's international obligations to respect press freedom
  • urging him to use his authority to halt the politically motivated abuse
    of
    press laws and regulations by state officials
  • further urging him to guarantee the internationally-recognized right of
    STB and all journalists in Ukraine to work without interference from the
    state




    Appeals To



    His Excellency Leonid Kuchma
    President of Ukraine
    vul. Bankivska 11
    Kyiv, Ukraine
    Fax: +380 44 293 7364 / 291 6161 / 293 1001
    E-mail: postmaster@ribbon.kiev.ua







    Please copy appeals to the source if possible.



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