A conference held at the PressClub Brussels Europe this week, heard that there have reportedly been several cases involving the government's 'Security Service of Ukraine' (SBU)
Reform has hardly begun in crucial areas such as the judiciary, the public prosecutor’s office, the powerful secret service and the electoral system.Without rapid, fundamental reforms here, Ukraine will not secure stable democracy and the rule of law. It will regress to the type of society it was before Maidan, with oligarchs, politicians and public officials dividing up the country’s political and economic pie between them, blocking modernisation and keeping Ukrainian citizens poor and unrepresented.
One such case is said to include that of young Ukrainian journalist Olga Belova who said she was arrested and detained in Kiev, the capital, while conducting opinion polls on socio-political issues. The conference was told she was held in detention for several hours and accused by the SBU of "collaborating with representatives of Russian special services."
Speaking at the event, the 26-year-old reporter said, "I was not doing anything wrong, simply conducting interviews on the street. But I was arrest and held in custody on the pretext that the information I was gathering could be used by the Russian authorities. This is ludicrous but this is but one example of how the authorities in Ukraine are cracking down on journalists in the course of their work. The reform process is not going as well as planned and the authorities are ultra sensitive to the slightest criticism. However, victimising the independent media is not the answer."
The Kiev-based journalist, speaking at the event, "Freedom of the press in Ukraine," added, "The government of Ukraine censor and suppress all media sources, bloggers and journalists, who dare to make public the attitude of many people to the current internal situation. Anyone who systematically criticizes the government or defends an objective "no propagandistic" stance is charged with being a Russian spy."Willy Fautre, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers, a leading rights NGO, said, "It is the right of journalists to be able to work and investigate any issue. Kidnapping of Olga Belova on the street and detaining her for interrogation is unacceptable."
Ukraine, EU's 'darling'
On September 1, the Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine finally entered into force in its entirety. Ukraine ratified it May 2014 following mass demonstrations in Kiev's Maidan square the previous winter, when a cross-section of the population demanded an end to the corruption and authoritarian mismanagement that had ravaged the country for 20 years. Willem Aldershoff, former head of the police and customs co-operation unit at the European Commission, said, "They were convinced that their demands could be met only by signing the agreement, with its concrete obligations for Ukraine regarding democracy, the rule of law and human rights, and the considerable support it promised from the EU."
Aldershoff, now a Brussels-based analyst of international affairs, added, "Since mid 2016, however, the speed of reforms has slowed notably and can now be said to be stagnating. Reform has hardly begun in crucial areas such as the judiciary, the public prosecutor's office, the powerful secret service and the electoral system.Without rapid, fundamental reforms here, Ukraine will not secure stable democracy and the rule of law. It will regress to the type of society it was before Maidan, with oligarchs, politicians and public officials dividing up the country's political and economic pie between them, blocking modernisation and keeping Ukrainian citizens poor and unrepresented."