Internet censorship in Ukraine will not be implemented. Not yet

Feb 9th, 2012 | By | Category: Access to information, Civic Actions, Freedom of Speech, Ukraine

February 8 2012 the Parliamentary Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information had discussed amendments to the law “On protection of public morality” (#7132) approved by the Ukrainian Parliament in the first hearing (the legal procedure in Ukraine requires at least two hearings of any law). These amendments were legitimizing government censorship of the Internet in Ukraine. Maidan’s article New Ukrainian Law Could Block Any Site Including Facebook or Youtube was the first in Ukraine to alert the public to this danger.

The Ukrainian language version of this article created a storm of feedback (thousands of shares, hundreds of reprints, hundreds of quotations) and soon the public reacted: journalists, internet service providers, media business owners, MPs – 99% of them were saying that Internet censorship was unacceptable.

On Maidan’s request, a Constitutional and legal analysis of the proposed amendments was prepared, and members of the Parliamentary Committee were informed of its conclusions.

Last November, with the help of a friendly Member of Parliament, Maidan had proposed changes to ammendments of the law “On protection of public morality”. Our changes were focused on removing any mention of the Internet from the law.

Our public appeal to MPs “Say NO to Internet Censorship!” was signed by 387 citizens including well known public figures. It was presented to the Committee by the scholarly advisor of Maidan who was present during the Committee’s hearings and discussed the law with MPs.

All together – it worked! After discussion the Committee rejected the amendments to the law (we have partially translated the text into English here).

Maidan was not alone in the struggle against these legislative novelties. For years the All-Ukrainian civic campaign against censorship of media and arts  along with many other NGOs, journalists and artists had been fighting against the very idea of regulation of public morality.

However it was Maidan that sounded the alarm about the attempt to regulate the content of Internet sites by government agency and the possibility of blocking sites without court order that had been proposed in the amendments. Our alarm was heard and the danger to which we drew attention was recognized.

We are thankful to all the people who shared our publications and video, and who signed the appeal.  Special thanks go to Member of Parliament Yuriy Stets.

PS. During the discussion some MPs stated that an improved law on the same topic of public morality is needed. There exists an alternative legislation draft by the Ministry of Justice which does not propose a government agency “regulating” morality.  But we will have to continue our monitoring of all attempts to regulate morality, because nobody can predict what lawmakers may invent to put into a new version…




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