The EU Commission’s progress report on the Implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy in Ukraine Progress in 2014 has observed that “the lack of transparency of ownership of media remained an issue and a proper legislative framework on media ownership was not created in 2014. Guaranteeing transparency of media ownership is one of the obligations of Ukraine to the Council of Europe according to the Resolution 1466 (2005)1 of the PACE on “Honouring of obligations and commitments by Ukraine”.
Mathias Huter, the CoE expert (Austria) at the request of the Parliamentary Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information Policy (hereinafter - the Committee) has developed recommendations for an effective mechanism of disclosure of beneficial owners of media in Ukraine. The expert has recommended that the law set strict disclosure requirements, introduce the possibility of sanctions if the license holders not properly report on the ownership structure, establish the requirement to publish information about the owners at the website of the broadcasters and create and provide access to the State register of subjects of information activities.
Most of the experts recommendations were taken into account in the draft law "On amendments to some laws of Ukraine to ensure the transparency of media ownership and implementation of the principles of state policy in the field of television and radio broadcasting» (№1831), initiated by MPs M. Knyazhytskyy and V. Denysenko. The Council of Europe has received an official request for expert opinion on the bill from the Committee.
The experts Matias Huter (Austria), Lasha Tugushi and Kahi Kurashvilli (Georgia) will present the experience of their countries (outlined in the Council of Europe study) and formulate practical recommendations for Ukraine.
Jan Tombiński, Ambassador, Head of EU Delegation to Ukraine said:"Adoption of the law providing for transparency of media ownership would bring Ukraine closer to the best European practice and provide for important democratic check. It will help to make the deoligarchization of political and economic life in Ukraine. Citizens and State authorities have the right to know who owns the individual media outlets in order to prevent a concentration of media power in several hands and abuse of media freedom. > The commitment to introduce clear rules on transparency of media ownership in Ukraine is part of the EU-Ukraine Association Agenda and the EU would welcome the law to enter into force in advance of local elections." ".
Roman Chlapak, Manager of the Joint Programme of the European Union and the Council of Europe “Strengthening information society in Ukraine” stated: “We hope that the effective mechanism on transparency of media ownership and deconcentration of media in Ukraine will be finally established; the mechanism that allows people to know who actually controls the media. We support the draft law on transparency of media ownership (No.1831), its consideration and improvement in consultations with the experts from the Council of Europe”.
Minister of Information Policy of Ukraine Yuri Stets noted in the speech: "I have consistently supported the initiatives aimed at providing consumer with information about media owners. This information shall be accessible for every consumer of the media content. The Expert Council under the Ministry of Information Policy worked out several initiatives regarding implementation of the "fair play" rules because today media shareholders and other shareholders are facing huge challenge - propaganda, which is used by aggressor against Ukraine. That’s why I believe that ensuring transparency of ownership is an effective safeguard for civil society and as well as for the media owners against manipulation of public opinion".
It is important to consider the draft law without delay. One of the three priorities in the sphere of freedom of expression envisaged in the Ukraine - EU Association Agreement consists in establishing clear rules for ensuring balanced access to the media for the candidates during the election campaign. According to the results of the monitoring of media coverage during previous election campaign, supported by the joint program of the Council of Europe and the EU, media owners often impose editorial policy to the TV channels, run informational wars on television in the pre-election period, rather than communicate accurate information to the voters.Strengthening Information Society in Ukraine Programme, a joint programme between the Council of Europe and the European Union, aims at strengthening the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms by ensuring greater freedom, diversity and pluralism for the media; the open, comprehensive, sustainable and citizen-oriented approach to the internet based on the human rights principles and effective protection of citizens with regard to the right to private life and the right to control their own personal data. Please follow the link for detailed information about the project: https://www.coe.int/uk/web/kyiv/41.