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Issue №4 Information occupation

Crimea beyond rules. Issue № 4. Information occupation

Modern history contains many examples of the occupation from the time of the Second World War to nowadays. However, the Crimean events showed to the whole world a new level of political confrontation. It influenced on the violations of human rights and freedoms that became more cynical and pronounced.

In the field of freedom of speech and media, like in other areas, numerous violations of international law standards have been cynically covered by state standards and rules. Spreading of the Russian legislation on this territory, many legal conflicts inevitably have arose due to the differences between Ukrainian and Russian legislative norms. In addition, in order to limit freedom of speech and exclude from the world community disgruntled ones, the occupation authorities initiated changes of existing regulatory documents. So, was introduced such restrictions,

– the special status for blogers and the special register of sites and pages, which have the audience of more than three thousand users per day – it means the actual increasing of Internet censorship;

– a ban for foreign citizens, for Russian citizens who have dual citizenship, for the stateless persons, for the foreign states and legal entities, as well as international organizations to be co-founders (participants) of the media, to be its editorial staff, and to broadcast;

– the mandatory re-registration of media which are operated in the Crimea on the basis of Ukrainian authorities’ documents, until April 1, 2015;

– the responsibility for the rehabilitation of Nazism – this norm of the criminal legislation of the Russian Federation was introduced in May 2014 and is used to combat dissent.

In addition to the centralized measures aimed on creating the censorship and restricting freedom of speech, was adopted some regional rules. The governance of the so-called Republic of Crimea adopted regulatory legal acts that significantly restrict human rights in the issue of speech freedom. In this way was legitimized:

– censorship of the Internet space of Republic of Crimea;

– restrictions for persons who are recognized as “accomplices of participants in armed conflicts in Syria and Ukraine”; “the distributors of terrorist, extremist ideology and information discrediting of the Russian Federation”; “the active members and ideologists of non-traditional religious organizations and sects operating in Republic of Crimea”;

– tightening of the procedure for journalists’ accrediting in the “State Council of Republic of Crimea”.

All of the above restrictions in the context of Crimean realities are the reason for the persecution of journalists, activists, b loggers and human rights activists. In March-May 2014, as a result of those persecution al who were objectionable for the new authorities ceased their activities. Many of them were forced to leave the peninsula because of fears for their lives and freedom. Now they continue their professional activities, also in part of covering the events in the Crimea, on mainland Ukraine. There were fixed the episodes of physical pressure (assault and beatings) against journalists, employees of information centres, and blogers. The inaction of law enforcement agencies to prevent and investigate attacks is very indicative in these cases. Therefore, there is a reason to believe that these attacks were intentional, planned and politically motivated. A number of journalists and activists were denied to entry the Crimean peninsula, sometimes even without giving notice. Many journalists and media employees became the objects of investigation by the Centre for Combating Extremism, and therefore were interrogated and searched, brought to administrative responsibility

The requirement of the Russian Federation legislation to re-registrate the mass media has led to the cessation of work of a number of Ukrainian information resources on the peninsula from April 1, 2015. However, long before the deadline for re-registering the media, the Chernomorskaya Broadcasting Company and the ATR television channel were targeted. In August 2014, representatives of the “Crimean self-defense” were on the territory of the Chernomorskaya Broadcasting Company and blocked the access for journalists to it. The equipment of the broadcaster was also arrested and seized. Now it is used to provide broadcasting of a Russian media resource on the territory of the Crimean peninsula. The Chernomorskaya Broadcasting Company has moved to Kiev.

Similar obstacles were experienced by the ATR channel, the first Crimean Tatar channel. The channel executive body made attempts to obtain a broadcast license, which was refused. According to the Russian Federation legislation, ATR broadcasting was discontinued on April 1, 2015. In this regard, was made an attempt to transfer media activity to the Internet, but the executive body and journalists faced active opposition from the authorities and restrictions on freedom of speech and accessing to public information. In 2015, ATR befell fate of the Chernomorskaya Broadcasting Company and moved to mainland Ukraine. Both media continue to cover events in Crimea

Obviously, the occupation authoritiesactions in part of restricting freedom of speech are complex. The set of measures that are being taken at all levels of power – legislative, executive and judicial – indicates a targeted policy of information occupation. The issues of freedom of speech and expression are elaborated and received an appropriate assessment in the international law. The practice of proceeding the crimes in the field of freedom of speech and criminal punishment for perpetrators of propaganda abuse, for using media in incitement to anti-Semitism, murder and erasure on the nationality basis, in inciting genocide and ethnic hatred exists in international human rights instances.

International law contains many guarantees of speech freedom without references to state borders. These guarantees are an individual’s right to freedom of opinion, namely:
– freedom to hold one’s opinion;
– freedom on opinion expression – to seek, receive and disseminate information using any means;
– the impossibility of arrest, prosecution and conviction for acts or opinions committed before the occupation or during its temporary termination.

International law contains guarantees for journalistic activity especially in zone of armed conflict. Journalists are protected individuals, therefore, attacks on them are estimated as war crimes. The Declaration on the protection of journalists in the situations of conflict and tension classified such attacks as attacks on freedom of journalism

In the present, the international standards of human rights and speech freedom, which are decisive in a democratic system, are grossly violated on the territory of the Crimean peninsula. History has examples of damage and harm caused by such a policy of the occupation authorities. On this basis, it should be asserted that the situation with freedom of speech and opinion expression in Crimea is critical and requires special attention from the international community and human rights defenders.

Read the full version of thematic review “Crimea beyond rules. Information occupation”.

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