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U.S. RIGHTS GROUP SIGNALS PRESS FREEDOM STILL LACKING IN CENTRAL, EASTERN EUROPE. Freedom House, a U.S.-based organization whose stated aim is to support global democracy, released its "Freedom of the Press 2003" report on 30 April, noting that press freedom "suffered notable worldwide deterioration in 2002, due in part to political and armed conflicts and increased government-backed restrictions on independent media outlets," according to the group's website ( The conclusions include classification of countries' media as "Free" (0-30 points), "Partly Free" (31-60 points), or "Not Free" (61-100 points). "Of the 27 countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, nine (33 percent) are rated Free, eight (30 percent) are Partly Free, and 10 (37 percent) are Not Free," the group said. Ratings in Central and Eastern Europe, listed alphabetically, are: Belarus (82), Czech Republic (23), Estonia (17), Hungary (23), Latvia (18), Lithuania (18), Poland (18), Slovakia (21), and Ukraine (67) (see also Ukraine item below). AH

UKRAINIAN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENTS MEET IN CRIMEA. President Leonid Kuchma and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin met in Yalta, Crimea, on 1 May, where they discussed plans to establish a common economic area encompassing Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan; the creation of an international consortium to manage Ukraine's gas pipelines; and a Ukrainian-Russian project to develop the An-70 aircraft, UNIAN reported. Putin arrived in Crimea on 30 April and is to stay until 4 May. JM

UKRAINIANS CELEBRATE MAY DAY. Some 3,000 people took part in a May Day rally organized by the Communist Party, the Socialist Party, the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, Our Ukraine, and the Sobor Party on European Square in the capital, UNIAN reported. Speakers at the Kyiv rally called for the rejection of President Leonid Kuchma's proposals for political reform and emphasized the need for joint opposition efforts to secure victory in the next presidential election. Some 500,000 Ukrainians reportedly took part in May Day demonstrations and festivities organized throughout the country, with the highest attendance reported in Donetsk (53,000), Dnipropetrovsk (16,000), and Simferopol (12,000). JM

FREEDOM HOUSE SAYS PRESS FREEDOM IN UKRAINE IN DECLINE. U.S.-based human rights watchdog Freedom House, in its annual survey of press freedom released on 30 April, named Ukraine among 11 countries in which ratings dropped from the "Partly Free" to "Not Free," according to a copy of the report on the group's website. "Among the most serious developments were major setbacks for press freedom in Russia, Ukraine, and Venezuela," the group noted in a press release accompanying the survey. The Freedom House said several Ukrainian journalists were targeted by politically motivated libel lawsuits or punitive tax audits last year. "Russian and Ukrainian reporters who investigated official corruption were routinely intimidated and sometimes violently attacked," the group said. JM

UKRAINIAN DIASPORA TARGETS PULITZER-PRIZE WINNER. The Ukrainian diaspora on 1 May launched a campaign aimed at seeing the late U.S. journalist Walter Duranty stripped of his 1932 Pulitzer Prize, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reported. Duranty, then a correspondent for "The New York Times," received his prize for a series of articles he published in 1931 on Stalin's plans to reform the Soviet economy. Duranty subsequently maintained silence in his writings about a man-made famine in Ukraine in 1932-33, in which an estimated 5 million-10 million people died (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 12 June 2002). "[Duranty] completely ignored the Ukrainian famine; he even went as far as to lie that there was no famine, there was no genocide of the Ukrainian people," Ukrainian Congress Committee of America President Michael Sawkiw told RFE/RL. JM

PRESS FREEDOM DECLINES WORLDWIDE. Press freedom suffered notable worldwide deterioration in 2002, due in part to political and armed conflicts and increased government-backed restrictions on independent media outlets, according to a Freedom House report released on 30 April. There were major setbacks for press freedom in Russia and Ukraine, the report says. Restrictive legislation and politicized judiciaries still prevail in countries such as Russia, where President Vladimir Putin's government clamped down on independent media. "State-directed intimidation of and attempts to influence the media are being perpetrated by democratically elected governments that seem to be increasingly unwilling to tolerate critical coverage," said Karin Karlekar, the survey's managing editor. Overall, the study reveals that 11 countries, including Armenia, Russia, and Ukraine, declined in the ratings of press freedom. Of 193 countries surveyed (including the Israeli-Administered Territories/Palestinian Authority), 78 (41 percent, with 20 percent of the world's population) were rated "Free," with no major media restrictions; 47 (24 percent, or 38 percent of the global population) were rated "Partly Free" with some media restrictions; and 68 (35 percent, or 42 percent of the world's population) were rated "Not Free," with state control or other obstacles to a free press. The proportion of the world's population considered "not free" increased by 4 percent from 2001. The entire report is available at CC


PRESIDENT SAYS HE WANTS DEFAMATION CASES STOPPED... President Leonid Kuchma said at a news conference in Kyiv on 23 April that he has asked Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun to discontinue the criminal investigations launched recently against a number of regional media outlets for allegedly defaming the president and obstructing his activities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2003), UNIAN reported. Kuchma said he did not play any role in launching the cases, adding that he even does not know what media were targeted by the Prosecutor-General's Office. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April)

...AND SIGNS ANTICENSORSHIP BILL INTO LAW... Kuchma has signed into law a bill defining and banning media censorship in Ukraine, Interfax reported on 28 April. The bill was passed by the Verkhovna Rada on 3 April, and makes it a criminal offense for officials to "deliberately intervene in the professional work of journalists." It also limits financial penalties against journalists for defamation claims. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 April)

...AS LAW HAILED BY ARTICLE 19, WITH RESERVATIONS. In April, the London-based freedom-of-expression organization Article 19 released a statement on amendments to the Ukrainian anticensorship law. According to Article 19, the amendments "represent a timely and important positive step in terms of ensuring respect in practice for the right to freedom of expression in Ukraine." It noted, however, that a number of further steps are needed, including measures to address the culture of secrecy in public bodies, a "public interest override" for exceptions and the introduction of minimum standards of record maintenance. While the clarification on censorship is helpful, the definition should not be exclusive but rather illustrative. As regards defamation, the rule prohibiting government bodies from suing should be extended to include public or state-owned bodies and the burden of proof should lie with the plaintiff on all statements of public concern, not just those relating to public officials. The law should not require payment of fees for lodging a defamation case, as this might inhibit access to the courts. Finally, the law should make it clear that true statements can never attract liability. The full text is available in English at, and in Ukrainian at CC

MORE MEDIA MANIPULATION? U.S. Helsinki Commission co-Chairman Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell noted on 29 April that "in her 18 April annual report to the Ukrainian parliament, Ombudsman Nina Karpachova asserted that journalism remains among the most dangerous professions in Ukraine, with 36 media employees having been killed over the past 10 years, while beatings, intimidation of media employees, freezing of bank accounts of media outlets, and confiscation of entire print runs of newspapers and other publications have become commonplace in Ukraine." Another troubling aspect of the media climate, according to Campbell, has been the control exerted by media moguls with close links to the government, and "there is growing evidence that backers of the current prime minister and other political figures have been buying out previously independent news sources, including websites, and either firing reporters or telling them to cease criticism of the government or find new jobs," Campbell said. CC

LEIPZIG ROUNDTABLE ON PRESS FREEDOM. Media City Leipzig, the German UNESCO Commission, and the city of Leipzig will present awards to four journalists, including Ukrainian journalist Vladimir Mostovoi, who are winners of the 2003 Leipzig Prize for Freedom and Future of the Media. See eng.html#preist. CC