Morality Commission accused of imposing censorship

Ukrainian writers, cinematographers and human rights activists accuse the National Expert Commission for the Protection of Public Morality [the Commission] of attempting to impose censorship in Ukraine. An Initiative Group made up of writers Serhiy Zhadan, Les Podervyansky, Andriy Bondar and Yury Andrukhovych, presented their position at a press conference on Kyiv on Friday, and called on the public and Ukrainian artists to support their proposal to introduce public control over every decision passed by the Commission.

Writer Les Podervyansky is blunt: “There was no agreement with the State that somebody would decide, on my taxes, what I can watch, read and how I should paint. There can be no such agreement. How can some people or other decide for all of society? This is absolutely not within the functions of the State. In general, morality is not their sphere of competence. Even less is it the sphere of competence of a State like others which can’t provide its citizens with a subsistence minimum.” He believes that public morality must be protected by a public, not a State organization. 

The writers are adamant that we need to begin resisting the Commission’s activities now. “We propose here and now to begin an indefinite protest action “Anti-NEC – no to censorship” not only against some forms of activity – against the very existence of the Commission. An informal community of its opponents already exists. We are not calling for the formalization of this community, for the construction and other constitutive measures. On the contrary, the more informal it is, the stronger”, the writers say.

The Initiative Group has also proposed stepping up study of taboo subjects, launching projects as provocative and radical as possible, not presenting manuscripts, published books or films for the review and assessment of the Commission, and not taking the Commission’s recommendations and opinions into account.

They also believe that it would be expedient to use all available means to demand that the Prime Minister and his or her deputies dissolve the Commission for the Protection of Public Morality.

“We will endeavour to work together to ensure as situation where censorship is powerless, infringements impossible and the activity of the Commission senseless”, the writers’ statement reads.

Yevhen Zakharov, Co-Chair of KHPG, states: “No person, however wonderful their reputation, has an advantage over other users of information. They are absolutely equal. Therefore if there are people who say what needs to be banned, and what allowed, that is a flagrant violation of human rights”.

Oleksandr Roitburd, Artist: “I lived for 30 years in a country called the Soviet Union, and now I feel what this commission is bringing with it. I really would like to laugh at them, but in fact it’s not funny. It’s foul and frightening.”

Serhiy Trymbach from the Ukrainian Association of Cinematographers: “What amazes me most of all is that the funding for the activities of the Commission is equal to that for financing cinematography in Ukraine. They are systematically destroying the film industry in Ukraine while at the same time the people who should be supporting it are beginning to fight for morality. You’d laugh if it didn’t make you feel so bitter.”

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