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Ukrainian news agency fines editors for article on president

(IFJ/IFEX) - 9 November 2012 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its regional group, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) today condemned the management of the Ukraine National News Agency (UNIAN) for censoring journalism critical of President Yanukovych.

In an extraordinary act of mismanagement and abuse of power, two journalists, Lubov Zhalovaha and Valentyna Romanenko, were fined 200 hryvanas each, approximately 20 euro, for posting an article entitled 'Bankova Picket: Yanukovych was given a shoe with a Christmas tree.'

"We are stunned by this example of blatant censorship of critical journalism," said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President. "The relatively modest size of the penalty cannot disguise the level of threat and arrogance behind this latest attack on independent journalism within the country's leading news agency."

According to a statement by six UNIAN website editors issued last week, UNIAN management has given instructions that forbid the publishing of Yanukovych's name in any negative context. The 200 hryvna fine was the enforcement of this new instruction.

In response, the Independent Media Trade Union of Ukraine (IMTUU), an IFJ affiliate, condemned the act as a gross violation of labour law. Under the Ukraine labour code management, disciplinary powers are limited to reprimanding or dismissing employees. Issuing financial penalties is a direct breach of the law and abuse of power.

They further point out that such restrictions of workplace rights helped provoke the 2004 journalists' revolution against censorship in the news room.

"Whether UNIAN's Director, Vadym Osadchy, was directly instructed to censor journalists or if he has voluntarily instigated a policy of pandering to the President, doesn't matter. The climate of fear and censorship that is rapidly spreading across Ukraine media must end," said Arne König, EFJ President. "The authorities are making a grave mistake if they think Ukraine journalists can be bullied into submission."

WHAT OTHER IFEX MEMBERS ARE SAYING
Journalists will protect UNIAN editors (Institute of Mass Information)

The Institute of Mass Information (IMI) reports that Ukrainian media organizations have pledged to protect editors at the Ukraine National News Agency (UNIAN). During a round-table discussion organized by the Stop Censorship! movement on 6 November 2012, it was decided that a group of journalism organizations should be commissioned to monitor the situation. IMI further notes that members of the media community are appealing to UNIAN's owners to analyze their compliance with legislation on freedom of expression and the protection of journalists' rights.

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