Daily: 20/01/2023

Ukraine’s Media Weigh Powers of New Law

Ukraine’s new media law has divided critics, with journalists warning it gives the government new, expansive powers, and Kyiv arguing that it brings the country closer to the European Union and will help fight propaganda.

Signed into law by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and set to take effect in April, the bill was developed in line with the EU directive on audiovisual media services’ requirements and Council of Europe standards.

While it includes most of the provisions recommended by the EU, the law goes much further and will replace six previous laws related to media. It also increases the government’s regulatory power over TV, radio, and news websites.

Media rights groups are wary, with Gulnoza Said of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) telling Voice of America she sees it as “an attempt to establish an even stricter control of the government over the free flow of information.”

In July and September, the CPJ issued two statements calling on Ukrainian lawmakers to drop the bill over concerns it will restrict press freedom.

Authorities came under criticism in November after journalists had their accreditation revoked for reporting on the liberation of the city of Kherson before government officials arrived. 

The new law will not govern media access, but it will empower the regulatory body, the National Сouncil of Television and Radio Broadcasting, to issue licenses for media companies and impose sanctions on outlets deemed to be in violation of the law.

For registered media, any action would be court approved, but experts have said that the law will make it easier to take action, including fines and temporary suspensions, against unregistered news outlets and without court approval.

“We don’t believe that the framework proposed by this law is that of a totally independent national regulator,” Ricardo Gutierrez, secretary general of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), told VOA.

He expressed concern about the expansion of the broadcasting council’s ability to impose sanctions and fines without independent judicial review.

The National Union of Journalists of Ukraine also voiced concern that the council could act at the behest of the government.

“The key aspects that are fundamental for media legislation include the political independence of the national media regulator. We want the regulator in this case to be independent,” said union director Sergiy Tomilenko.

Government officials defended the law, saying that until recently, media were able to broadcast whatever they wanted, including pro-Russian propaganda.

For a long time, the regulator’s authority was limited, Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Culture and Information Policy Taras Shevchenko told VOA.

“The Ukrainian regulator has been completely impotent for most of its existence. You can see that on the example of the pro-Russian TV channels that no one could do anything about,” Shevchenko said. “The expansion of regulator’s powers is a necessary step to guarantee independence.”

Made up of eight people from media, culture, science and legal sectors, the broadcasting council has four members appointed by the president and four from parliament. But a majority party rule has raised flags among media.

Maksym Dvorovyi, who is part of the task force that started drafting the new media law in 2019, said that his working group worked to include safeguards.

“Two authorities that nominate candidates to the broadcasting council represent one political power. Among the legislation’s provisions, we established as many safeguards as possible to offset the political influence,” said Dvorovyi.

Balancing act

Natalia Ligachova, head of Detector Media, a group founded by Ukrainian journalists to raise national media literacy, agrees the council will probably be more pro-presidential but noted that lawmakers amended the legislation around concerns.

“The latest version of the law has been considerably softened,” she told VOA. “Before, any blogger who posted something online or had a YouTube channel or a Facebook, Instagram or TikTok page could fall under the new regulation. This has been changed, and it’s important.”

Lawmakers made almost 1,000 pages of amendments based on concerns by media groups. They removed highly criticized provisions, such as mandatory registration of media, blocking of some outlets without court decisions, and a proposal that would define bloggers and social media users as media.

But some critics still are concerned it could limit Ukraine from having a truly free press.

“Today, our position is less radical than it was in July, but we still believe that this law is not sufficient to guarantee media freedom,” said Gutierrez of the EFJ.

His organization laid out its remaining concerns in a letter to the head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.

She replied that the European Commission is following the issue closely and that the EU delegation in Ukraine is working with the Ukrainian government and parliament.

Media reform is one of the European Union’s conditions for negotiations on Ukraine’s membership, and Ukrainian officials say the new law is just one of several statutes passed as part of efforts toward EU membership.

This article originated in VOA’s Ukraine service.

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Резніков повідомив про «чесну розмову» з міністром оборони Німеччини щодо танків Leopard

«Далі буде», заявив міністр оборони за підсумками розмови

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French Irish Citizen Held in Iran Suspends Hunger Strike, Sister Says

A French Irish citizen held in Iran has suspended his dry hunger strike at the request of his family, who fear for his life, his sister told AFP on Friday.

Bernard Phelan, detained in Iran since early October, will accept food and fluids again, Caroline Masse-Phelan said, but remains determined, and will “start again if there is no progress” toward his release.

Phelan, a Paris-based travel consultant and one of seven French nationals held by Iran, was arrested while traveling there and is being held in Mashhad in northeastern Iran.

Iran accuses him of anti-government propaganda, a charge he has denied.

He started refusing food on January 1, and fluids on Monday. Phelan, who suffers from a heart condition and a chronic bone issue, was judged to be in critical condition by Wednesday.

Masse-Phelan said earlier in the week the family had managed to pass messages to her brother through diplomatic channels.

“Bernard has agreed to read our messages and has suspended his hunger and thirst strike,” she said on Friday.

“His life is still in danger,” she said, adding that her brother had received no medical attention, and was suffering from “an enormous drop in blood pressure.”

The Iranian authorities have so far refused to release Phelan on medical grounds despite repeated requests from the French and Irish authorities, a French diplomatic source has said.

Phelan is one of two dozen foreigners who are being held in Iran, according to activists, who describe the detainees as hostages seized to extract concessions from the West.

Fellow French national Benjamin Briere, who was sentenced last year to eight years in prison on spying charges, is being held in the same prison.

“We are extremely worried for Bernard Phelan,” a French foreign ministry official told AFP on Friday.

“We hold Iran entirely responsible for his situation, and for the state of his health,” said the source, who declined to be named.

Diplomats said earlier that Phelan received his first French consular visit only on January 9, after repeated requests.

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Українські екіпажі для Challenger 2 «ось-ось» розпочнуть навчання у Великій Британії – Пристайко  

«Вже тренуються екіпажі важких артилерійських систем, і найближчим часом приїдуть і танкісти»

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Макрон оголосив про рішення збільшити оборонний бюджет Франції

Французький лідер 20 січня відвідав авіабазу Мон-де-Марсан і говорив там перед військовими

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Ердоган повторив Зеленському пропозицію про посередництво між Москвою та Києвом

Президент Туреччини наголосив, що його країна готова зробити потужний дипломатичний внесок у встановлення миру між Росією та Україною

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У Мінську матір і дочку засудили до тривалих термінів у колонії за причетність до «Чорної книги Білорусі»

Інна та Валерія Глинські понад рік утримуються у СІЗО-1, більшість засідань у справі відбулися в закритому режимі

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У прокуратурі повідомили, скільки проваджень по держзраді розслідується на Херсонщині

У прокуратурі зазначили, що серед тих, кого підозрюють у співпраці з окупантами, є різні категорії місцевого населення

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Google Parent Company To Lay Off 12,000 Workers Globally

Alphabet Inc., the parent company of tech giant Google, announced Friday it is laying off 12,000 workers across the entire company — cuts reflecting six percent of the company’s total workforce.

In an email to employees Friday, Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai said the company saw dramatic growth over the past two years and hired new employees “for a different economic reality than the one we face today.” He said he takes full responsibility for the decisions that led to where the company is today.

In his email, Pichai said the layoffs come following “a rigorous review across product areas and functions” to ensure the company’s employees and their roles are aligned with Google’s top priorities. “The roles we’re eliminating reflect the outcome of that review,” he said.

In the email, Pichai said U.S. employees to be laid off already have been notified, while it is going to take longer for employees in other countries because of different laws and regulations.

Google’s decision comes the same week other big tech companies, Meta Platforms Inc. – the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, Twitter Inc., Microsoft and Amazon, announced they were laying off thousands of employees.

Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press and Reuters. 


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Фінляндія обіцяє Україні ще 434 мільйони доларів військової допомоги, але поки без танків

Як повідомили 20 січня в Міністерстві оборони країни, це буде 12-ий пакет військової допомоги Україні, а загальна вартість усіх надісланих пакетів оборонних засобів наразі становить 590 мільйонів євро

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Киргизстан: парламент зробив киргизьку мову робочою для органів влади

З 1989 року в Киргизстані киргизька мова є державною мовою, а російська – офіційною

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WP: голова ЦРУ провів таємну зустріч із Зеленським щодо планів Росії

За повідомленням, українська сторона запитувала, як довго Україна може розраховувати на допомогу США і Заходу

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Новий пакет допомоги від США на 2,5 млрд доларів: Пентагон повідомив, що в нього входить

У Міноборони США сподіваються, що додатковий пакет допоможе Україні протидіяти «спектру загроз на коротку й середню перспективу».

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Новий міністр оборони Німеччини «не знає» про умову надання танків Україні разом зі США – медіа

«Мені невідомо про будь-яку подібну умову», заявив Пісторіус

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FBI Chief Says He’s ‘Deeply Concerned’ by China’s AI Program

FBI Director Christopher Wray said Thursday that he was “deeply concerned” about the Chinese government’s artificial intelligence program, asserting that it was “not constrained by the rule of law.”

Speaking during a panel session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Wray said Beijing’s AI ambitions were “built on top of massive troves of intellectual property and sensitive data that they’ve stolen over the years.”

He said that left unchecked, China could use artificial intelligence advancements to further its hacking operations, intellectual property theft and repression of dissidents inside the country and beyond.

“That’s something we’re deeply concerned about. I think everyone here should be deeply concerned about,” he said.

More broadly, he said, “AI is a classic example of a technology where I have the same reaction every time. I think, ‘Wow, we can do that?’ And then I think, ‘Oh God, they can do that.’”

Such concerns have long been voiced by U.S. officials. In October 2021, for instance, U.S. counterintelligence officials issued warnings about China’s ambitions in AI as part of a renewed effort to inform business executives, academics and local and state government officials about the risks of accepting Chinese investment or expertise in key industries.

Earlier that year, an AI commission led by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt urged the U.S. to boost its AI skills to counter China, including by pursuing “AI-enabled” weapons.

A spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment Thursday about Wray’s comments. Beijing has repeatedly accused Washington of fearmongering and attacked U.S. intelligence for its assessments of China.

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Chad, Venezuela, Kashmir Activists Share Top Rights Prize

Campaigners from troubled Kashmir, Chad and Venezuela on Thursday won the Martin Ennals Award, one of the world’s most prestigious human rights prizes, with the jury hailing their “courage.”

The winners are Khurram Parvez, a prominent rights activist in restive Indian-administered Kashmir; Delphine Djiraibe, one of Chad’s first female lawyers; and Feliciano Reyna, a rights activist and advocate for access to health care for marginalized LGBTQ people in Venezuela.

“The common denominator between the 2023 laureates … is their courage, passion and determination to bring the voice of the voiceless to the international arena, despite the ongoing, sometimes life-threatening challenges they endure,” prize jury chairman Hans Thoolen said in a statement.

“We are particularly proud to honor these three exceptional laureates who have each dedicated over 30 years of their lives to building movements which brought about justice for victims or delivered medicines to the marginalized,” he said. “They have made human rights real for thousands of people in their communities.”

The award ceremony will take place in Geneva on February 16, the organizers said. The laureates will each receive 20,000 to 30,000 Swiss francs ($22,000-33,000).

The award is managed by the Geneva-based Martin Ennals Foundation. The prize honors individuals and organizations that have shown exceptional commitment to defending and promoting human rights, despite the risks involved. It raises their profile and gathers international support for their work.

‘An inspiration’

The annual Martin Ennals Award, named after the first secretary-general of Amnesty International, was first given in 1994. The jury comprises representatives from 10 leading human rights organizations, including Amnesty and Human Rights Watch.

Parvez, 45, the founder of the widely respected Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, likely will not be able to attend the ceremony, though. He has been detained by India since November 2021.

According to the prize organizers, Parvez was catapulted into nonviolent activism at age 13, when he witnessed the shooting of his grandfather during a demonstration in Kashmir.

Parvez, who is also the chair of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances, has traveled to the most remote parts of Kashmir to collect and document stories of abuse.

“Despite continued attacks on his right to freedom of expression by the Indian government, being jailed in 2016 and losing a leg to land mines, Parvez relentlessly spoke the truth and was an inspiration,” the prize jury said, slamming his latest arrest on “politically motivated charges.”

Djiraibe, 62, meanwhile, pioneered the human rights movement in Chad, and was a key figure in bringing former dictator Hissene Habre, who brutally ruled from 1982 to 1990, to justice, the jury said.

As head of the Public Interest Law Center, she has accompanied people seeking justice for rights violations, with a growing focus on gender-based violence.

Reyna, 67, was an architect, who upon the death of his partner from AIDS in 1995 founded Accion Solidaria to provide medication and treatment to Venezuelans living with HIV and AIDS.

He later helped create the first national AIDS help line and has advocated more broadly for health care access for marginalized LGBTQ populations.

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Dublin Doing ‘Everything’ to Free French-Irish Citizen Held in Iran

Ireland’s foreign minister said Thursday the government was doing all it could to secure the release of a French-Irish citizen held in Iran after his family urged Dublin to intensify talks because of concerns for his health following a hunger strike.

Micheal Martin told a news conference in Dublin that “we’re going to do everything we possibly can” to help release Bernard Phelan, a 64-year-old Paris-based travel consultant arrested in October while traveling through Iran in the wake of anti-regime protests.

“I think we have been very active in respect of Bernard’s situation,” Martin told reporters. “We’ve sought his release on humanitarian grounds from the Iranian government, and we’re waiting a response from the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Iran. We’ve been engaged with the ambassador here as well.”

Martin’s comments followed a plea from Phelan’s sister Caroline Masse-Phelan for Dublin to step up its negotiations with Tehran.

“Escalate negotiations with the Iranian authorities to get Bernard out of there. His health condition is extremely bad following his hunger and thirst strike,” Masse-Phelan said on RTE radio.

“His health is extremely at risk. And we still do fear for his life. So escalate, escalate, escalate,” she said, explaining that her brother suffers from a heart condition and chronic bone illness.

Innocent pawn

One of seven French nationals held by Iran, Phelan is being held in Mashhad, a city in the northeast, on a number of charges including disseminating propaganda critical of Iran’s clerical leadership. He has denied all the charges.

“He’s a person who loved Iran, and he was involved in travel and tourism, in terms of encouraging people to visit Iran from a tourism perspective,” Martin said.

At the start of the year, the dual national Phelan began a hunger strike and had refused water for the past three days.

Masse-Phelan said the family had managed to pass a message to her brother through diplomatic channels on Wednesday, getting him to end the hunger strike.

Previously, requests for direct communication with the family had been turned down by Iranian authorities.

She said they urged him “to stop, to eat, to drink and that it wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t worth losing his life in this situation.”

Speaking to Agence France-Presse on Wednesday, Caroline Masse-Phelan said under the “dry” hunger strike, her brother would survive no more than a few days.

A diplomatic source said Iranian authorities had so far refused to release Phelan on medical grounds despite repeated requests from French and Irish authorities.

Phelan is one of two dozen foreigners held in Iran, according to activists, who describe the detainees as “hostages” seized to extract concessions from the West.

Fellow French national Benjamin Briere, who was sentenced last year to eight years in prison on spying charges, is being held in the same jail.

Masse-Phelan said her brother was “an innocent pawn in a bigger political game,” explaining he had “worked in tourism and for all his life and was promoting Iran as a destination.”

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Боснійський суд засудив колишнього сербського командувача до 15 років тюрми за воєнний злочин

Боснійський державний суд також визнав винними сімох товаришів Інджича в жовтні 2022 року та засудив кожного до 13 років ув’язнення

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«Очікуємо сильних рішень» – Зеленський про прийдешню зустріч «Рамштайн» 

«Ми чекаємо рішення фактично з однієї європейської столиці, яке активізує підготовку ланцюжків співпраці щодо танків»

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