Concerns about freedom of speech in Ukraine proliferate. It will be one of the main agenda items at an EU-Ukraine summit in Kiev on 12 October. For the EU, a free media is a critical indicator of a country's commitment to democratic values. It is a prerequisite for any accession state: the EU has enough trouble with existing member-states over media freedoms and rule-of-law violations.
Yet for Ukraine it remains a stumbling block. 2020 saw the worst escalation in intimidation and violence towards journalists since the Euro-Maidan and the EU Association Agreement in 2014. More recently, the Government has shut-down three independent, Russian-speaking TV channels and sanctioned a popular blogger. This has prompted criticism from the UN, OSCE and leading European and US politicians.
Are these acts of national security to defend Ukrainian sovereignty, as President Zelenky insists, or plain old political censorship? How does the President use the National Security and Defence Council (the agency that enacted the shut-downs) in accordance with international law? In the longer run, is it possible for Ukraine to develop an independent, pluralistic media landscape free from politically motivated persecution?