Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, has adopted a new draft law on media – No. 2693-d – in the first reading, a necessary step for Ukraine's accession to the EU, on Aug. 30.
The bill is criticized by some deputies and activists because it removes restrictions on the Russian-language media industry.
“Despite the statements of some political forces, the draft Law on Media has been adopted as a basis, and I note that this is a European integration bill, ” the parliament’s press service wrote, quoting a statement by the chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, Ruslan Stefanchuk.
According to the law, the parliament must review the bill in the second reading within two weeks, but the humanitarian committee recommended increasing this review time to three weeks.
The Deputy Chairman of the Humanitarian and Information Policy Committee, Yevheniya Kravchuk, said that the European Commission's conclusion on this bill is expected in September, after which a second reading will be voted on.
The Law on Media is one of the criteria required to start negotiations on Ukraine's accession to the EU. The European Commission called on Ukraine to adopt it in order to "overcome the influence of vested interests.”
Stefanchuk said the media law will be one of the most controversial European integration initiatives that the Ukrainian parliament plans to adopt.
A number of MPs appealed to Stefanchuk on Aug. 29, calling him to withdraw the document from the plenary session. In total, 34 lawmakers have claimed the updated document poses a "danger of demining the cultural border with Russia."
The Vidsich civil movement has published a statement criticizing certain provisions of the media bill, which contain many concessions for the Russian-language media industry, such as:
- A reduction of the Ukrainian song quota on the radio by 10%;
- the return of Russian artists to screens by dismantling a government-created list of persons who are considered to pose a threat to national security;
- the cancellation of the ban on the popularization of the Russian authorities and their individual representatives in TV programs and films;
- the cancellation of the ban on humiliating and insulting the Ukrainian language in films;
- allowing TV channels to broadcast films in Russian, possibly violating an earlier language law;
- The cancellation of the recently adopted ban on songs by Russian artists, etc.
At the same time, a member of the National Council on Television and Radio Broadcasting, Oleksandr Burmahin, told NV that the “list of persons who pose a threat to national security, that mostly consists of Russian artists, journalists, and singers, will remain in force.”
Burmahin also said the ban on the glorification of Russian authorities will also stay in force. He also denied that the new law would allow for the broadcast of Russian-language films.
The head of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, Serhii Tomilenko, has stated that only 10% of the draft law consists of provisions that Ukraine has undertaken to adopt before the EU, and the rest of the text, according to him, is "the authorities' desire to gain more influence over the media: to issue prescriptions, fines, and close [media outlets.]”