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Protection of journalists’ professional activity in perspective

Victoria Litvin


As stated in explanatory memorandum to the draft Law of Ukraine "On Protection of journalists’ professional activity", aim of this bill is to bring old, adopted during the Soviet era, legislation into a single legal act that regulates journalist’ activity, giving it a range of rights, requirements and guarantees.

To date, the mentioned project has not passed a single reading in the Supreme Council of Ukraine, but journalists have hope that law still will be accepted.

Although the bill expanded rights and guarantees for journalist and strengthened responsibility for violations, I personally believe that we do not have to create a separate regulation (which consists of only eight articles) to secure these innovations, because it does not alter already existing laws, which regulate activity of journalist, but complements their number, duplicating each other.

Relationships in journalism are already set by the Law of Ukraine "On state support of mass media and social protection of journalists", "On Print Media (Press) in Ukraine", "On presenting the state authorities and local self-government in media", "On information".

Let’s note that the above bill duplicates terms, which have been identified in these laws, although a bit and expands them.

Thus, p. 1 of the draft law stipulated a broader concept of journalist and his professional activity:

1. Journalist – is a person who collects, receives, stores and uses information to create and process messages, articles, software programs, photo illustrations, etc. (hereinafter - works) to spread them to indefinite number of people through print media, audio-visual (electronic) media, news agencies (hereinafter - the media), Internet.

2. Professional activity of journalists - is a direct self or co-authored systematic activities associated with collection, receiving, storage and usage of information for creating and processing works to promote them to indefinite number of persons for exercising their right on information.

Journalist can perform professional activities while in labor relations or civil relations with editors of print media, TV and radio news agency (hereinafter - editorial) or acting on behalf of someone, or independently.

Proof for the professional journalist status is a certificate or another document certifying his identity issued by editorial or creative union of journalists. Professional activity of journalists is based on principles of independence and impartiality, accountability, professionalism and compliance with human rights and legal interests of individuals and legal entities, respect for universally recognized moral values.

Very pleasant and welcome is the fact that the bill greatly expanded number of rights and guarantees provided for journalist and adjunct to art. 171 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (Obstruction for journalistic activities) has three parts, namely:

3. Intentional infliction the journalist with mild or moderate injuries, and resulting in beatings and other violent acts in connection with performance of his legal profession, shall be punished by a fine of one hundred to two hundred tax-free minimum incomes, or imprisonment for a term up to 5 years.

4. Intentional infliction journalist or his close relatives with grievous bodily harm in connection with performance of his lawful professional activities, punishable by imprisonment for a term of five to ten years.

5. Attempt threatening life of a journalist or his relatives in connection with performance of his legal profession, is punishable by imprisonment for a term of eight to fifteen years.

Crimes involving bodily injury journalist or his close relatives, as well as attacks on their lives, now may not be punished with common criminal norm, but special (such as a special rule which operates on attempt threatening life of a judge).

Of course, this innovation should work, and journalists will be able to feel more protected from illegal encroachment. But in addition to expansion project, the material part of criminal law is another very interesting point.

Yet, part 6 of art. 8 of the Law "On Protection of journalists’ professional activities" fixed, "If the case of preventing the journalistic activities by official or officials from state agencies, local governments, enterprises, institutions and organizations of all types of ownership, or associations of citizens, such person shall be suspended within three days from official duties till the court decision that has entered into force, or written confirmation of the fact of rejecting journalist claim in court".

However, there is a slight omission, namely: not specified who and how will perform it, which is not written out the procedure of such suspension from duties within three days. It is not clear where and whom a journalist whose rights have been violated, should contact with request for suspension. However, importantly, the bill aims to protect professional journalists and is a significant step to give them freedom of speech and actions in work.

Three articles and the list of abode are devoted to rights, freedoms and guarantees for journalists’ protection in the project, which is good news. To enumerate all, let’s pay attention only to the most important and significant. Thus, journalist has right to:

- Collect, store, use and disclose information in oral, written or other form of their choice;

- Create and develop work, share information, opinions and beliefs, opinions and comments through the media;

- Do not report the source of information, except when it is made public by the court;

- Not to disclose the source of information or information that allows you to set its source, except when ordered from the court.

Legitimate professional activities of journalist can not be a reason for his arrest, detention and removal of collected, processed, prepared materials and technical tools that he uses in his work.

It can be concluded that the bill still makes a journalist independent and protected from encroachment and interference to his profession. Let's hope that a project will become the law.

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