Freedom of Speech Committee recommends rejecting Public Morality draft bill

At its meeting on 8 February the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information decided to recommend that the Verkhovna Rada pass a resolution to remove Draft Law № 7132 on amendments to the Law on Protection of Public Morality and to cancel the decision to pass it in its first reading.

This proposal was supported by eight of the members of the Committee present, namely: Olena Bondarenko; Olena Kondratyuk; Mykola Bahraev; Oleksy Fedun and Yury Stets. It was opposed by Viktor Ukolov, while two members – Oleksandr Holub and Volodymyr Landik – abstained.

The members of the Committee did not consider the table of amendments prepared for the second reading.  With regard to these amendments, one of the co-authors of the bill, Pavlo Unhuryan commented that they had emasculated the draft bill.

Mykola Bahraev reminded the draft bill’s initiators that at the previous meeting it had been suggested that they create a working group to re-work the document, but that this had not been done.

Olena Kondratyuk was categorically against the draft law and said that she had been, in view of its dangers, from the outset. She proposed rejecting the bill and then creating a working group together with specialists from various fields and drawing up “a normal conceptual law concerning public morality. Since the biggest stumbling stone in this draft law is the Committee for the Protection of Public Morality. You can’t patch up what is beyond patches”.

As reported, draft Law № 7132  on Amendments to the Law on the Protection of Public Morality was adopted in its first reading on 18 October.  It had been clear for some months that the dissolution of the National Expert Commission on Public Morality announced by the President in December 2010 was not to happen, however the new draft law includes all the elements already criticized here on many occasions, and more.

Statements of concern have been issued by both Ukrainian and international NGOs, for example, Stop Censorship (see the translation here), Reporters without Borders and the International Federation of Journalists  The draft law has been criticized by many, including the National TV and Radio Broadcasting Council and State TV and Radio Broadcasting Council.

On Wednesday the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union issued an appeal to the members of the Committee on Freedom of Speech to ask parliament to reject the draft bill  It stated: “In its present form this draft law is in breach of provisions of Ukraine’s Constitution, restricts human rights and freedoms, introduces censorship of the Internet and obliges providers without even a court order to block content which the National Commission for the Protection of Public Morality may consider harmful to public morality”

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