Sanctions are right decision as they take effect without delay

Sanctions are right decision as they take effect without delay

The TV channels, which have been blocked by the decision of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, constantly caused damage to the national security of Ukraine during the war. What "freedom of speech" is it about?

The President of Ukraine signed the decision of the National Security and Defense Council dated February 2, 2021 late in the evening of the same day. Such prompt actions in Ukraine are rare and mean a lot. The NSDC decision with a neutral title "On the application of personal special economic and other restrictive measures (sanctions)", in fact, concerns an issue that has been raised in Ukraine for a very long time. It is also an eloquent fact that the current government relies on the decisions made by the previous government – the 2018 Law and the Resolution of the Parliament. The ultimate goal is the same - to block the broadcasting of Medvedchuk's TV channels, which have long and consistently poisoned the consciousness of the Ukrainian audience in the interests of Russia, a country that has been waging an aggressive war against Ukraine for seven years in a row.

How Viktor Medvedchuk, a friend of Putin, managed to concentrate such a propaganda fist under his influence and to organize a scheme of its generous funding from Kremlin’s cash boxes is a separate issue. We will note only that the SBU, investigative journalists, and social networks have spoken and continue to speak about this a lot and convincingly, sometimes emotionally.

The fact that such a decision is already ripe and overripe is evidenced by the instant reaction of society, namely social networks and prominent Ukrainian publicists. As of the morning of February 3, the number of comments could not be counted. Therefore, we will focus on fundamental issues.

Why sanctions and why against Taras Kozak?

Sanctions are something that comes into effect immediately. Of course, Ukraine is a rule-of-law state, and they can be challenged in court, and Ukrainian courts are far from being an example of justice. But if the opposite had happened and the state had started with the courts, then this process, as practice shows, would have taken years and, moreover, would have served as a permanent information pretext for the same anti-Ukrainian propaganda attack. That is, the information war unleashed by the Kremlin would have gained a new impetus.

Taras Kozak

Citizen of Ukraine Taras Kozak is a nominal beneficiary of legal entities against which sanctions have been applied, in particular, LLC ARIADNA TV, LLC NOVYI FORMAT TV, LLC TV VYBIR, LLC TV and RADIO COMPANY 112-TV, LLC LIDER TV, LLC PARTNER TV, LLC NOVYNY 24 HODYNY, and LLC Novi Komunikatsii. Kozak is Medvedchuk's closest partner, and he is clearly not investing his own money in propaganda channels. The SBU has repeatedly warned about the sources of this funding. In fact, the West is well aware of how the Kremlin is doing this. The 2016 U.S. presidential election, the UK referendum on leaving the EU, and the 2017 Catalan independence referendum are some of the most famous examples, some of which have already been officially investigated. Kozak is under the full influence of Medvedchuk, who, in turn, is following instructions from Moscow. This is convincingly evidenced by the monitoring of the 112 Ukraine, NewsOne and ZIK TV channels.

So what are they broadcasting?

This is open anti-Ukrainian propaganda, which has repeatedly become the reason for lawsuits by the state regulatory body, the National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting. Its main narratives were "Maidan is a revolt against the legitimate government, and it must be desecrated", "Crimea and Donbas are not Moscow’s aggression and annexation, but salvation from killings and disorder on the part of Kyiv", "Ukraine professes Nazism", "Ukraine is not a state, but a U.S. colony under foreign control," and so on. How long could Ukrainian TV viewers tolerate this filth? A rhetorical question. Surprisingly, they did it so long.

What do sanctions give?

In some ways, this is similar to the well-known historical fact that the mafia godfather in the United States, Al Capone, was imprisoned in the United States not for murder and robbery, but for tax evasion. The occupied districts of Donbas are the patrimony of mafia business, through which the relevant figures from Ukraine and Russia communicate on economic issues. There, in particular, money is earned, which finances Medvedchuk’s channels. Therefore, "terrorist financing" is a well-founded basis for imposing sanctions, namely blocking of assets; preventing the withdrawal of capital from Ukraine; suspension of economic and financial obligations; revocation or suspension of licenses and other permits the receipt of which is a condition for carrying out a certain type of activity; a ban on the use of radiofrequency resources of Ukraine; terminating the provision of services for retransmission/distribution of television programs, the provision of telecommunication services and the use of public telecommunication network… This is an exhaustive list, isn’t it?

Legal grounds are lawful and systemic

First of all, this is the Law of Ukraine "On Sanctions", adopted by the Verkhovna Rada of the eighth convocation in 2018; and also the resolution of the same parliament "On approval of proposals for the application of personal special economic and other restrictive measures (sanctions)" dated October 4, 2018, which is still in force. They mentioned legal entities - license holders on the basis of which the TV channels from the "pool" worked. And they are described in the resolution as follows: "... in the activities of legal entities (...) there are systemic signs of imitating the discursive practices of Russian imperial-chauvinist propaganda, manifestations of propaganda and the spread of the ideology of terrorism are constantly recorded."

Paragraph 2 of Article 1 of the Law "On Sanctions" reads as follows: "Sanctions can be applied by Ukraine in relation to (…) entities engaged in terrorist activities." Making money on criminal schemes in the zone of military conflict is also mentioned there.

So we have come full circle.

Medvedchuk is not an independent figure either

In addition, the NSDC already introduced sanctions based on this law. On April 28, 2017, a decree of the then president was promulgated, which imposed sanctions on 1,228 people, including citizens of Ukraine. And the sanctions were similar to the current ones - blocking of assets - restricting a person's right to use his property.

The TV channels from the "pool" de jure belong to Taras Kozak. These TV channels have long been used exclusively for participation in Russia's disinformation campaigns against Ukraine, and this was coordinated by Russia.

Sanctions against Taras Kozak and his legal entities are a decision on national security. In the conditions of the war unleashed by Russia, which also continues in the information space, not reacting to this is a violation of the Constitution.

What will happen to them now?

The law "On Sanctions" does not say that there should be a court verdict against Taras Kozak, which establishes guilt in terrorist activities. Russia's hybrid aggression against Ukraine is ongoing. During the war, it is necessary to respond quickly and adequately. And if you're not ready to shoot, don't show the weapon to the attacker. Financing activities through schemes that allow the occupiers to "earn," in particular, through coal supply schemes, is a fact that should not go unanswered. Ukraine's SBU Security Service is also aware of propaganda companies' constant communication with representatives of the aggressor state. Isn't this terrorist activity?

Sanctions are not part of litigation, they are not a verdict. Sanctions are a weapon used for defense, for the prompt elimination of a specific threat. Therefore, they have to be applied without delay. There have been many reports in Ukraine about how the media pool of Medvedchuk's TV channels is managed. Taras Kozak is, in fact, a fictitious person controlled by Medvedchuk. But Medvedchuk himself is not an independent person. He is the administrator of illegal Russian property in Ukraine and works exclusively in the interests of the Kremlin and on its instructions. Respective investigations were earlier conducted by the Schemes program (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty). That is why the sanctions mechanism is the first thing that should be applied in such circumstances to protect national security and the interests of Ukrainian society.

What are the prospects for appealing sanctions in court?

If someone in Ukraine believes that their rights have been violated, then going to court is their inalienable right. Of course, it is necessary to take into account the specifics of the Ukrainian system that still needs to be reformed. There are well-founded claims to its impartiality along the entire vertical - from, say, Shevchenkivsky District Court to the Constitutional Court of Ukraine. However, the level of this high-profile case does not provide much room for maneuver "behind the scenes." And there is obvious transparency and soundness of the arguments of the decision taken by the National Security and Defense Council in the interests of Ukraine, the facts of the TV channels working in the interests of the aggressor state. Therefore, it will be difficult for Kozak's lawyers to substantiate the line of objection in court.

What about "freedom of speech"?

This, apparently, will be the basis of the lawyers' claims and the fuss on the part of Medvedchuk's party members. So let's dig into details. In general, we have a great opportunity to finally distinguish between the concepts of "freedom of speech" and "hostile propaganda."It seems that even the professional media environment has clearly understood this. The vast majority of well-known experts supported the decision of the National Security and Defense Council.

Dozens of broadcasters are operating in Ukraine

What about the pool's audience? Maybe their rights have been violated? There are different people there, but there is a sad fact: there are enough of them who are pro-Russian and therefore anti-Ukrainian. For them, the dirt that is being dished on Ukraine is a balm to their spirit. But there are at most 15% of such people in Ukraine and therefore it's necessary to think about the vast majority of Ukrainians whose national feelings "Medvedchuk's pool" regularly fills with dirt.

In addition, dozens of broadcasters are operating in Ukraine. Only three TV channels that worked against Ukraine and at Russia's expense have stopped working. Unfortunately, there are also broadcasters in Ukraine to which such an audience can easily pass. They work on the basis of a single agenda, dictated from a well-known country. By the way, it would also be good to analyze their work. Of course, people have the right to express their own opinion and their own assessments. Maybe they would at least learn to choose words? And maybe they would not take money from the aggressor and the terrorist?

But the real threat to freedom of speech is fakes and targeted disinformation campaigns aimed at promoting false narratives and justifying Russia's aggressive actions. So the decision on sanctions is also logical in this context.

People who call themselves journalists should not forget about giving different points of view and not serving their owners as if there is no one else in the country.

Dmytro Peresichenko, Kyiv

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