RSF hails Ukraine’s adoption of new media law, despite war with Russia

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) hails Ukraine’s long-awaited new media law, which President Volodymyr Zelenskiy signed on 29 December following parliamentary approval. On the whole, it establishes a favourable framework for the media, despite the war, but improvements are needed to safeguard the media regulator’s complete independence, RSF says.

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A requirement for Ukrainian admission to the European Union, the new media law harmonises Ukrainian legislation with European law and makes it easier to identify who are the real owners of the media.

Generally welcomed by Ukrainian journalists, it specifies many points that were previously absent from Ukrainian legislation and are needed for a more favourable environment for independent media. For example, it introduces co-regulatory mechanisms that facilitate a dialogue between the media regulator and the media, and provides online media and social media with a legal status.

“We welcome this reform, which had been awaited for several years, and the improvements that were made before its final adoption,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “But we expect an additional effort from the authorities to complete this reform, in order to safeguard the media regulator’s total independence, as soon as the constitutional constraints linked to the current war are lifted.”

The law clarifies, details and expands the media regulator’s powers. But to guarantee the regulator’s full independence and the professionalism of its composition and decisions, the process for its appointing members needs to be changed. To do that, parliament must amend the country’s constitution, says Roman Holovenko, a lawyer with the Institute for Mass Communication (IMI), RSF’s partner organisation in Ukraine. But amending the constitution is impossible as long as the martial law established in response to Russia’s invasion last February is still in effect.

Adoption of a new media law was one of the requirements set by the European Commission for Ukraine’s future admission to the EU. On 1 July, media defence organisations appealed jointly to the government to speed up this reform, which had been awaited since 2020. Submitted to parliament on 28 July, an amended version of the bill was adopted on first reading on 30 August, after consultations with European institutions and a public debate in Ukraine.

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