Peaceful Assembly affected by COVID-19 restrictions
Fined for establishing religious association
In early March 2020, the Yalta Court (Crimea) fined Artiom Gerasimov 400,000 RUR (USD 5,540) for establishing the 'Jehovah's Witnesses' religious association in Yalta. Gerasimov was charged in March 2019 for managing the activities of a banned organisation. During the verdict, several supporters came to show their solidarity in front of the court building.
This is not an isolated case of persecution of Jehovah's Witness followers. In the same month of March 2020, another supporter of the church, Sergey Filatov, was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment. According to Crimean Human Rights Group, these cases are a violation of fundamental rights and freedoms.
Protest over COVID-19 restrictions
On 17th March 2020, about a hundred people gathered in front of the parliament building in the capital city to demand that the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada be sent to quarantine. The protesters were also against the moratorium on rallies and assemblies of more than ten people, the adoption of some laws and the appointment of the new Attorney General, Iryna Venedyktova, who has been reported to clash with reporters and civil society activists.
Protesters wore masks, respirators or gas masks. Dozens of police and national guards gathered near the action, also wearing masks. According to the BBC news agency, the situation was calm and no conflict was reported between law enforcement officers and participants.
Report on security of journalists published
In early April 2020, the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine announced the findings of a research they conducted in partnership with other NGOs during the first three months of 2020. The report, dubbed "Physical Security Index of Ukrainian Journalists" found that 15 incidents involving force against media workers were recorded during the period, and that women bore the brunt of the force, with data indicating that 10 out of the 15 incidents involved female journalists.
The head of the National Union of Journalists, Serhiy Tomilenko said:
“In Ukraine in general, the level of physical aggression against journalists is unacceptably high, but attacks on women are particularly outrageous… In each case, it is necessary not only to ensure proper investigation and punishment of the perpetrators, but also to achieve widespread public condemnation of those who use force against women”.
MPs to vote on Media bill
On 8th April 2020, the UkrInform News Agency reported thatthe Verkhovna Rada Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy had announced plans to look into proposals by stakeholders and the international partners for the draft Media law by the end of April 2020.
The draft law proposes to introduce joint media regulation which combines the functions and means of state regulation and industry self-regulation.
New media project for the occupied territories of Donbas
On 2nd March 2020, the ministry of culture, youth and sports presented a concept for anew television channel called “Dom” (House) for the temporarily occupied territories in Eastern Ukraine. UATV TV channel general director, Yulia Ostrovskaya, cited by the Institute of Mass Information, reported during the presentation that several sociological studies show that in the occupied territories about 54% of citizens do not have access to Ukrainian channels at all, 43% do not have access to Ukrainian websites and access to their content is blocked by illegal authorities. Ostrovskaya added that over the last six years of foreign aggression in these territories, Russian TV channels have become the main media platforms. The new media project will broadcast in the occupied territory in Ukrainian and Russian languages and aims to offer accurate information about Ukraine to the people of the occupied territories of Donbas.