Ukraine - Parliament urged to repeal all draconian laws adopted on 16 January

by Reporters Without Borders | Reporters Without Borders
Tuesday, 28 January 2014 12:36 GMT

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Noting that the Ukrainian parliament began a special session today with the declared aim of repealing draconian laws adopted illegally on 16 January, Reporters Without Borders is concerned about the extent of this promise and urges parliamentarians to go all the way.

"No guarantee has been given that the massive restrictions on freedom of information adopted on 16 January will be among the measures that are repealed," Reporters Without Borders said. "The official statements continue to be ambiguous and the ruling party's legislators are free to vote as they wish.

"It is possible that parliament will settle for just repealing the provisions that have attracted the most attention, above all, those criminalizing opposition demonstrations, and that all the other legislative measures will be confirmed by a properly-conducted vote."

Justice minister Elena Lukash announced yesterday evening that parliament was preparing to repeal "the laws that have provoked a great deal of debate," especially those increasing the penalties for mass demonstrations.

But she added that the laws "that are not eliciting objections" would be voted again.

The concern about her comments is reinforced by the cabinet's approval yesterday of a bill which would make it easier to block websites and which refers to the system established by the 16 January laws.

"The draconian 16 January laws form a single block that has changed the nature of the Ukrainian regime and has led to a popular uprising," Reporters Without Borders said.

"The provisions that drastically limit the population's right to inform and be informed are an integral part of this block. The complete repeal of these laws is essential if the authorities really hope to extricate Ukraine from the authoritarian road they have taken."

The provisions include the re-criminalization of defamation, direct government control over the Internet, prison sentences for poorly defined "extremist activities" and for gathering information about government officials, the power to block websites without court approval, and mass surveillance.

(Photo: Ukrainskaya Pravda)