Last week, November 8, several journalists of Kharkiv mass media were not allowed to the session of the Kharkiv city council.
Unexpectedly the officials required the journalists to bring some additional documents to go through accreditation procedure, of which the latter were not informed in advance.
Although the journalists got indignant, they could not enter the premises, therefore, were not able to do their job. Mostly online and civil mass media representatives were left behind the door.
The incident did not pass unnoticed by the local community.
Viktor Pichuhin, journalist of Nakipelo and Hromadske.Kharkiv says that he felt offended twice. Firstly as a city resident, who has the right to come any time to the city council, which deputies he had voted for. Secondly, his rights as a journalist were violated. “It appears harder to get access to Kharkiv city council than to the parliament of Ukraine!” says Viktor. “Previously I have not faced problems being admitted to the regional administration, or to other sessions of the higher level.”
Other journalists remind that the issue of free access to the Kharkiv City Council has been raised repeatedly by activists since 2006. In 2007, a journalist of a national newspaper was deprived of accreditation after he critiqued Kharkiv municipal services in his article.
The lawyer Oleksii Kharytonov says that the situation of city council’ “lock out” is neither unique nor new for Ukraine. Similar incidents were observed in Odesa, Mykolaiv and other towns and regions. The authorities use the Law on Information which introduces an accreditation procedure aiming to help journalists as a tool to “cut off” independent journalists or those who are critical.
“Lack of accreditation is not the reason for not allowing a journalist to attend a public event or enter any premises where authorities perform their functions,” says the lawyer. “Non-admission of a journalist with the appropriate status is illegal. This is a violation of the Law on Access to Public Information.”
According to Kharytonov, pressmen call the police in such situations, and criminal proceedings for obstruction of journalists’ work are started. However, none of such cases has got to the court yet.
Oleksii Kharytonov emphasizes that professional activities of journalists in Ukraine need additional regulation. It is necessary to eliminate the ground for discrepancies and to determine the status of the Internet media. The existing international statutory acts that determine the guarantees of journalistic activity do not apply to the journalists of online news agencies in Ukraine.
Text: Olena Sokolynska
Photo: Andriy Marienko