European Commission calls on Ukrainian authorities to resolve issue of disconnected TV channels
The European Commission's report on Ukraine's fulfillment of the conditions for the start of EU accession negotiations emphasizes the need to restore an independent media landscape
The report states that in the spring of 2022, the authorities launched the United News telethon and cut off three opposition TV channels from digital broadcasting.
"In March 2022, in the context of martial law, the President signed a decree on a unified information policy by merging the programming of all national TV channels into a single information platform. This decision led to an expansion of government control over broadcasting and some restrictions. Some media outlets consider these restrictions disproportionate. Similarly, the exclusion of three private (opposition-affiliated) TV channels from terrestrial broadcasting (while the channels continue working and remain available through other means) has been criticised by the opposition on the same grounds," the document says.
It is noted that the outbreak of a full-scale Russian war of aggression has had a profound impact on the media landscape.
"In the coming year, Ukraine should ... develop a roadmap to support the re-establishment of a pluralistic, transparent and independent post-war media landscape," the EC said.
It also emphasizes the need to establish clear transparency of media ownership, "taking into account security considerations".
On 4 April 2022, three national news channels were cut off from digital broadcasting: Espreso, Pryamyi and Channel 5.
Some officials claimed that the reason for the shutdown was the National Security and Defense Council's (NSDC) decision of 18 March to implement a unified information policy under martial law. The decision referred to the creation of an information marathon "by uniting all national TV channels". However, neither the head of state, nor the NSDC, nor the National Council explained how this "information policy" would be implemented and whether any channels should be switched off.
Immediately after the NSDC's decision, Espreso TV channel sent official letters to all authorized state bodies, including the President's Office, the NSDC, and the National Council, stating that 50% of its airtime was being allocated to the United News marathon on its own initiative. The TV channel also asked for clarification on how the presidential decree and the NSDC decision should be implemented, as these documents did not contain such details. There was no response.
"Disconnecting the broadcast of our TV channels is illegal, as there is no valid document that would give the legal grounds to disconnect us from broadcasting," reads an open letter from the staff of three Ukrainian news channels, which they sent to the head of the European Union Delegation to Ukraine in April.