Peter Byrne   Kyiv Post   29-Jul-1999   Leonid Kuchma takes another step toward dictatorship
"Closing down non-governmental television on the peninsula creates a situation under which citizens are deprived of receiving objective and balanced information about all candidates running for the presidency," the journalists' statement said. Peter Byrne
George-Soros-installed Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma continues on his relentless path to transform Ukraine from a fledgling democracy to a mafia dictatorship.  A mafia dictatorship, in turn, means a third-world economy combined with a chronic bloodbath.  Plunderers of Ukraine, finding in Kuchma a cooperative accomplice, look on and approve.

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Crimean TV stations shut by state

Move widely dubbed an effort to control airwaves on eve of presidential elections

Post Staff Writer

29 July 1999

Ignoring an outpouring of local indignation, state authorities made good on their threat to pull the plug on four non-governmental television and radio stations in Crimea on July 26.

The Crimean Radio and Television Broadcasting Center, acting on instructions from the State Electronic Communication Agency (UkrChastotNadzor), stopped transmitting programs produced by Black Sea TV and three smaller regional stations based in Simferopol, Kerch and Djankoj.

The state agencies have refused to explain their reasoning, apart from a terse statement that the stations had been operating without proper licenses.

The Crimean Association of Free Journalists, however, condemned the action as blatant political interference by the Kuchma administration.  The journalists noted, for example, that the unlicensed broadcast center is still allowed to transmit state-controlled programming.

"It is a ridiculous reason to close down four non-governmental stations," read a statement circulated by the Crimean Association of Free Journalists.  "Especially since the State Electronic Communications Agency has not made any complaints regarding the fact that the broadcast center continues to transmit state-controlled company programming, including national television [Inter and 1+1] without the requisite license."

The broadcast center is the only one in Crimea with the technical capability to transmit TV signals throughout the mountainous peninsula. The center and its equipment belong to the State Concern for Radio Communications, Radio Broadcasting and Television, which in turn fall under the administrative umbrella of the Kyiv-based State Committee of Information Policy.  Officials at all affiliated organizations have been traveling "on business trips" and were not available for comment.

The licensing of the center's TV broadcast frequencies is the responsibility of the Crimean branch of the State Electronic Communications Agency (UkrChastotNadzor).  That agency, in turn, falls under the aegis of the Kyiv-based State Committee for Communications and Information.  Vladimir Kovalev, who is in charge of this matter for the agency, also could not be reached for comment.

In their July 26 press release, the Crimean journalists unanimously agreed with Black Sea TV company executives who linked the blackout to the presidential elections in October.

"Closing down non-governmental television on the peninsula creates a situation under which citizens are deprived of receiving objective and balanced information about all candidates running for the presidency," the journalists' statement said.  "Conversely, candidates themselves are deprived of the opportunity to be presented in an evenhanded fashion to their electorate."

The Crimean journalists also noted that the state-controlled Krym TV company which is not licensed by the National Council for Radio and Television -continues to broadcast its programming from the center.

"State agencies continue to use double standards: They are trying to create unequal and more favorable conditions for state electronic media, which is obviously pro-Kuchma," Natalia Kondrateva, a Black Sea TV official, said.  "The result of this policy will be that the only television companies permitted to operate in Ukraine will be under the thumb of administrative authorities."

Black Sea TV management also continues to insist that the government is trying to force the sale of the company to pro-government buyers.

Kuchma's presidential rivals and parliament deputies expressed outrage at what they called the administration's clumsy attempts to monopolize media.  On Wednesday, Socialist Party Leader Olexandr Moroz called for efforts to "neutralize the savageries of incumbent power."

"We need to ensure decent conditions for the press and ensure decent conditions for media to report on the positions of all politicians without fear of persecution," Moroz said.

Reaction also came from abroad, although international criticism was more subdued.

In Vienna, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Friedmut Duve said: "The media situation in Ukraine has not really improved over the past month.  In this respect, I have recently addressed President Kuchma on several cases."

Duve said he remains upset with the "interference, sometimes even harassment, and intimidation by the executive branch in the work of private media."

It was Duve who insisted several months ago in Kyiv that economic and technical assistance from the European Union to Ukraine should be directly linked to the government's adherence to internationally recognized press- and human-rights practices.

Apparently, though, EU officials in Brussels do not agree or may not be paying attention.  Aid continues to flow to Ukraine from abroad.

On the same day that state authorities closed down the non-government television stations in Crimea, the European Union announced its decision to provide Ukraine with the first 58 million euro installment of a 150 million euro assistance package.  That aid is designed to support Ukraine's account balance for oil and gas purchases.

Also on July 26, the European Commission declared its decision to reward Ukraine with an additional 45 million euros for conducting structural reforms in power engineering, private sector development and legislative reform.

Sven Holdar, an expert of the political and economic section of the delegation of the European Commission for Ukraine, declined comment about the closing of the stations.  Holdard said he had not heard about the issue.