Ukraine Moves Closer to Outlawing Dissent

Freedom House strongly condemns the approval by Ukraine’s Rada (parliament) of legislation that criminalizes libel, imposes Russian-style “foreign agent” restrictions on civil society groups receiving foreign funding, and punishes civic participation in protests. Freedom House calls on the Speaker of the Rada, Volodymyr Rybak, and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to reject the legislation, which would violate Ukraine’s commitments to uphold universal human rights.

On January 16, in violation of legislative rules and procedures, the Rada narrowly approved the legislation designed to  limit dissent and opposition protests in the country and tightly regulate freedom of speech.  The bill also allows authorities to fine organizers for unauthorized public meetings and the use of equipment such as stages or tents. It also expands the definition of extremism, banning the distribution of print or online material that the government considered to be “threatening the constitutional order.”

“It is disheartening to watch the democratically elected government of Ukraine moving further away from the democratic aspirations of the people of Ukraine,” said David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House. “Not only was the law passed in violation of normal procedures, the Rada offered a glimpse of the dark times awaiting Ukraine if the bill is signed into the law.”

Learn more:
Press Release: Ukraine President Should Resign; Sanctions Warranted if More Violence Against Protesters, Press
Special Report: One Step Forward, One Step Back: An Assessment of Freedom of Expression in Ukraine during its OSCE Chairmanship
Nations in Transit 2013: Ukraine
Freedom in the World 2013: Ukraine
Freedom of the Press 2013: Ukraine
Freedom on the Net 2013: Ukraine
Blog: Freedom at Issue