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Newspaper could face criminal charges, have its registration withdrawn

(WAN/IFEX) - The following is a 17 December 2008 WAN and World Editors Forum letter to Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko:

Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko
Office of the Prime Minister
Kiev, Ukraine

17 December 2008

Dear Prime Minister,

We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications in 102 countries, to strongly object to the recommendation of the National Expert Commission of Ukraine on the Protection of Public Morality that the registration of the daily Blik should be withdrawn and that criminal proceedings should be brought against the newspaper.

On 23 October, the Commission recommended that legal sanctions be taken against Blik, which is owned by Adevarul Holding, a Romanian media company, for publishing several photographs of half-naked women and a graphic of a crucified frog. The Commission asked the Ministry of Justice to withdraw Blik's publishing registration and recommended that the Prosecutor General's Office consider criminal charges against the newspaper.

We respectfully remind you that withdrawing Blik's right to publish and instigating criminal charges against it would be disproportionate to any offences that may have been committed and would be tantamount to censorship.

We respectfully remind you that such sanctions would constitute a clear breach of the right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by numerous international agreements, including the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 10 provides that: "This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers." Any derogations from this right must be "necessary in a democratic society", which is clearly not the case in this instance.

We respectfully call on you to ensure that the registration of Blik is not withdrawn and that criminal charges are not brought against the newspaper. We also ask you to ensure that in future the work and decisions of the Commission are carried out transparently and that it effectively consults newspaper representative organisations when drafting any recommendations related to the press.

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely,

Gavin O'Reilly
World Association of Newspapers

Xavier Vidal-Folch
World Editors Forum

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