- A new law allows the Ukrainian government to block websites that are not registered as media.
- President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed the law on Thursday after the Ukrainian parliament approved it.
- Groups representing journalists say the law undermines freedom of the press.
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A new law signed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy could give the Ukrainian government the power to block media.
Zelenskyy signed the law on Thursday after Ukraine’s parliament passed it in early December, the New York Times reported. Lawmakers have touted the bill as an attempt to bring Ukraine’s media laws closer to European Union standards as the country bids to join the 27-member bloc. They have also argued that this will help counteract Russian propaganda as the Russian invasion of Ukraine approaches its one-year anniversary.
However, organizations representing journalists say the law will undermine freedom of the press in Ukraine. Under the law, Ukraine’s media regulator could block websites not registered with the government as news organizations, The Kyiv Independent reported on Friday.
The law conflicts with press freedoms in other parts of Europe, the European Union of Journalists said in a statement on Friday, according to the Times.
Ukrainian lawmakers have been considering a new media regulation law since 2019, when Zelenskyy asked parliament to draft it. The version that Zelenskyy signed on Thursday is not as comprehensive as an earlier draft, which the federation described as “worthy of the worst authoritarian regimes”.
The law was also criticized by the legal department of the Ukrainian parliament, which claimed lawmakers had not done enough to investigate whether the bill would lead to government censorship.
Since the Russian invasion in February 2022, Ukraine has made changes to the way the media works. In March, for example, Zelenskyy signed on to merge the country’s national TV channels into a single platform, Portal reported at the time.
Zelenskyy himself has at times expressed his frustration to the media. In August he criticized Ukrainian officials for briefing the press on Ukraine’s military strategy.