To the President of Ukraine
Mr. Viktor Yuschenko
To the Prime Minister of Ukraine
Ms. Yulia Tymoshenko
To the Minister of Justice of Ukraine
Mr. Mikola Onishuk
To the General Prosecutor of Ukraine
Mr. Oleksandr Medvedko
To the Head of the National Commission for Promotion of the Freedom of Speech and Development of the Information Sector
Mr. Taras Petriv
To the Head of the VRU Committee for Freedom of Speech and Information
Ms. Ganna German
To the VRU Ombudsperson for Human Rights
Ms. Nina Karpachova
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum (WEF), which represent 1800 publications in 102 countries, to express our concern about the possible withdrawal of the license of the newspaper Blik, and possible criminal sanctions against its editor-in-chief, for publishing materials that were found offensive by the National Expert Commission for Protection of Public Morality.
We believe these sanctions may be the result of a selective and distorted interpretation of the materials, and we respectfully remind you that withdrawing Blik's right to publish and instigating criminal charges against its editor would be disproportionate to any offences that may have been committed, and would be tantamount to censorship.
On 23 October, the Commission recommended that legal sanctions be taken against Blik, which is owned by Adevărul Holding, a Romanian media company, for publishing several photographs of half-naked women, and a drawing of a crucified frog, which was found by the Commission to be "blasphemous". The Commission asked the Ministry of Justice to withdraw Blik's publishing registration and recommended that the Prosecutor General's Office consider criminal charges against the newspaper. That case is nearing conclusion in the courts.
We respectfully remind you that such sanctions would constitute a clear breach of the right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by numerous international and Ukrainian conventions, including Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 10 of the Ukranian Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Article 34 of the Constitution of Ukraine, and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides that: "This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers." Any derogations from this right must be "necessary in a democratic society", which is clearly not the case in this instance.
As the resolution of this case would set a legal precedent in Ukraine, we respectfully call on you to review and resolve this case in view of the requirements of a democratic society and to prevent the application of disproportionate sanctions against the press.
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
World Editors Forum