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Government urged to ensure draft election code protects free expression

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - London 04.05.11: ARTICLE 19, International Media Support (IMS) and Media Law Institute (MLI) call on the Ukrainian Government to bring the draft Election Code in line with international freedom of expression standards. This appeal is made on the basis of ARTICLE 19's analysis of the draft code, that points out how the draft fails to meet international freedom of expression standards and best practices and recommends specific changes of the proposed regulation.

"ARTICLE 19 welcomes the decision of the Ukrainian legislators to reform the election legislation and merge several election laws into one code," said Dr Agnes Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director. "However we think that the new legislation must ensure that freedom of expression is respected and protected during elections," continued Callamard.

"The freedom to express oneself and to seek the views of others both as a voter and a political candidate is a fundamental cornerstone of free and fair elections. We urge the Ukrainian government to refine the draft election code to adhere to international standards of freedom of expression," said Jane Møller Larsen, Programme Coordinator of the Media and Democracy Programme, International Media Support.

The analysis outlines four issues central to the protection of freedom of expression during election times, including the autonomy of media; pluralistic and diverse media content; the freedom of voters and parties and candidates to impart, seek and receive information and ideas relevant to their participation in elections; and the existence of mechanisms allowing access of election candidates to the media. Reviewing the regulation of these issues, ARTICLE 19, IMS and MLI welcome the broad scope of the regime of election information, the detailed regulation of election campaigning and the regimes of holding public campaign events, and of production and distribution of campaign materials.

However, the draft Code suffers from a number of weaknesses from a freedom of expression point of view. The most serious one is the failure of the authors to recognise that the participation of voters and candidates in election campaigns is an expression of their right to freedom of expression. The failure to recognise the freedom of expression aspects of the regulation has weakened the protection of the right to freedom of expression. Furthermore it has permitted unnecessary restrictions on reporting and on participation of certain groups of individuals in election campaigns.

Partners plan to use the analysis of the election code to further engage in the legislative drafting process and to improve the document so that it corresponds to the internationally recognised freedom of expression and freedom of information standards.

The analysis of the draft election code was carried out by ARTICLE 19 within the framework of the IMS Media and Democracy Programme for Central and Eastern Europe and the Caucasus.

Download ARTICLE 19's analysis:
memorandum_on_draft_election_code.pdf (493 KB)

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