Key Provisions


On April 3 2003 the Parliament attempted to strengthen freedom of speech and the right to information by adopting the Law on Amendments to Certain Laws of Ukraine to Ensure the Unimpeded Realization of Freedom of Speech. The law specifically addresses:

  • the prohibition against censorship;

  • the right to information; and

  • the protection of honour, dignity and commercial reputation.

The law introduces amendments to a number of laws and regulations, including:

  • the Law on Information;

  • the Law on State Support of Mass Media and Social Protection of Journalists;

  • the Cabinet of Ministers Decree on State Dues; and

  • the Code on Administrative Violations.

Key Provisions

Although prohibited by the Ukrainian Constitution, censorship and other abridgements of the freedom of speech still persist. The law develops the provisions of the Constitution and more precisely specifies those actions which fall under the definition of 'censorship'. Such actions include: (i) a demand addressed to a mass medium, a journalist, an editor-in-chief, a publishing organization or its founder (co-founder), or a distributor, to submit information for prior approval before publication (except where this demand is made by the author of, or holderof copyright or neighbouring rights in, the relevant information); and (ii) a ban imposed (other than by the courts) or other counteraction taken by government or local authorities, including their officials, against the reproduction or dissemination of information.

The law provides for the implementation of new remedies against violations of the right to request and receive information relating to public business. It introduces administrative penalties for violations of the right to information by officials which result in:

  • an unlawful refusal to provide information;

  • the provision of false information; or

  • a failure to provide the requested information within the specified timeframe.

The law further stipulates more substantial grounds for compensation of moral and property damages caused by journalists, as well as the conditions under which a journalist can be relieved of his or her responsibilities.

Finally, the law establishes progressive state dues which are payable in order to bring a claim for the recovery of moral and property damages where an individual's honour, dignity or commercial reputation is harmed. The state dues vary from 1% to 10% of the amount in dispute, depending on the amount involved (the larger the amount in dispute, the higher the percentage). Such variation appears to be an alternative to the introduction of a cap on damages, as was previously proposed.


The new law has received a frosty reception. Although adopted by the Parliament, it faces strong opposition from the Ukrainian Association of Mass Media Workers, which is lobbying the president to veto what it considers to be a populist and imperfect law. While the association's arguments are questionable from a legal standpoint, they are indicative of the lack of enthusiasm which journalists have for the law. Nevertheless, it should still be acknowledged that the law does in fact develop the existing legal framework governing freedom of speech and information.

For further information on this topic please contact Igor Svechkar or Dmytro Fedoruk at Shevchenko, Didkovskiy & Partners by telephone (+380 44 230 6000) or by fax (+380 44 230 6001) or by email ([email protected]).