President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has signed off on legislation that would significantly expand the government’s regulatory power over the news media, a measure that journalists have warned could erode press freedom.
Mr. Zelensky, whose administration has been criticized for undermining press freedoms, ordered the drafting of a law increasing media regulation in 2019.
The measure was passed by Ukraine’s Parliament earlier this month along with a spate of other bills that lawmakers say were intended to help the country meet the European Union’s legislative conditions for membership. The bills included measures to protect the rights of national minorities. Mr. Zelensky signed the media regulation bill into law on Thursday, the Ukrainian media reported.
The media regulation bill expands the authority of Ukraine’s state broadcasting regulator, the National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting, to cover the online and print news media. It gives the regulator the power to fine media outlets, revoke their licenses, temporarily block certain online media outlets without a court order, and request that social media platforms and search giants like Google remove content that violates the law, the Ukrainian news media has reported.
But Ukrainian journalists have said that the new media statute goes far beyond what the European Union requires. They have accused the government of using the membership obligations as a pretext to seize greater control of the press.
The media bill also drew international criticism as it moved through Parliament. In July, the general secretary of the European Federation of Journalists, Ricardo Gutiérrez, called the bill’s regulation “coercive” and “worthy of the worst authoritarian regimes.” The Committee to Protect Journalists, a nonprofit group that champions press freedom around the world, called for Ukrainian lawmakers to drop the bill in September, saying that it tightened “government control over information at a time when citizens need it the most.”
The National Union of Journalists of Ukraine warned in a statement before the parliamentary vote that the bill would help erode the freedoms that “distinguish the social system of Ukraine from the regime of dictatorial Russia.”
But the deputy chair of the Parliament’s information policy committee, Yevheniia Kravchuk, countered the charge that supporters had used E.U. requirements as cover for an attempt to rein in press freedoms, arguing that sweeping changes to Ukraine’s media legislation were overdue.
“Of course, this bill is even broader than the E.U. directive, because we needed to change and modernize our media legislation, which has not been changed for 16 years,” she said in a statement after the bill was adopted. “It was adopted back when there was no internet at all.”
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The state of the union? Unapologetically pro-American, to hear Joe Biden tell it
U.S. President Joe Biden offered no apologies for his spendthrift, pro-American economic strategy Tuesday, making clear in his second state of the union speech that he intends to persist with a protectionist approach that’s making for anxious allies, including Canada.
Biden, with newly elected House Speaker Kevin McCarthy over his shoulder, preached the virtues of working across the aisle as he found himself addressing a newly divided Congress, Republicans have wrested control of the House of Representatives away from Democrats in November.
With some Republicans spoiling for a fight as presidential election season draws near, Biden is under pressure to justify what political opponents say is a profligate approach to the federal purse, making it all the more important to ensure that money stays on U.S. soil.
And he didn’t just defend Buy American. He doubled down on it, promising new rules for federal infrastructure projects that would require all construction materials — not just iron and steel, but copper, aluminum, lumber, glass, drywall and fibre-optic cable — be made in the U.S.
“On my watch, American roads, American bridges and American highways will be made with American products,” Biden said.
“My economic plan is about investing in places and people that have been forgotten. Maybe that’s you watching at home. You remember the jobs that went away. And you wonder whether a path even exists anymore for you and your children to get ahead without moving away.”
Protectionism notwithstanding, most Canadians still see the U.S. as their country’s closest ally, a new poll suggests — but they seem less certain that their powerful neighbour is a force for good in the world.
Nearly 70 per cent of respondents to the online survey, conducted by Leger for the Association for Canadian Studies, said they still see the U.S. as Canada’s best friend, while 16 per cent said they disagreed and 15 per cent said they didn’t know.
Those surveyed were much more divided, however, on the question of whether the U.S. is a positive influence on international affairs: 41 per cent disagreed with that statement, compared with 38 per cent who said they believe it’s true. Twenty-one per cent abstained.
Part of that is likely due to the hyper-partisanship that has come to define U.S. politics and was on clear display as Biden turned to domestic issues like drug costs, oil and gas production, corporate tax increases and the ever-present debt ceiling controversy.
McCarthy has insisted Republicans won’t vote to raise the debt ceiling, a necessary step to avoid the U.S. going into default, without an agreement to reduce spending to 2022 levels, a cut of roughly eight per cent.
Biden said Republicans were proposing deep cuts to cherished programs like Social Security and Medicare, an allegation that prompted eyerolls from McCarthy and catcalls and boos from Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, among others.
“Let’s commit here tonight that the full faith and credit of the United States of America will never, ever be questioned,” he said, before accusing certain Republicans of trying to “take the economy hostage” by proposing an end to those social programs.
“I’m not saying it’s a majority of you … but it’s being proposed by some of you,” Biden told his detractors as they expressed their disdain, which he took as evidence they were backing his position.
“So we all apparently agree: Social Security and Medicare is off the books now, right? All right, we got unanimity.”
The night wasn’t entirely acrimonious.
Biden spelled out an ambitious effort to curb the flow of deadly drugs like fentanyl into the country, to redouble the search for a cancer cure and to mitigate its causes, to better support veterans at risk of suicide and taking on the mental health crisis.
He twice generated rare bipartisan showers of applause — first in introducing RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, the parents of Tyre Nichols, who died last month after a savage beating by police in Memphis. “Let’s commit ourselves to make the words of Tyre’s mother come true,” Biden said.
“‘Something good must come from this.'”
The chamber roared again for Nancy Pelosi’s husband Paul, who was attacked in his California home by an intruder, his rage fuelled by the conspiracy theories that now pervade right-wing politics in the U.S., apparently looking for the former House speaker.
Biden also reiterated his call for a ban on assault weapons, cheering Brandon Tsay, the 26-year-old California man who disarmed the gunman who killed 11 people at a dance studio in Monterey Park last month. And he celebrated Ukraine’s defiance in the face of Russian aggression, as well as the American display of unity, solidarity and leadership that helped to make it happen.
With all eyes again shifting toward the coming race for the White House, Biden’s protectionist rhetoric is likely aimed mostly at winning over a domestic political audience, and most observers agree that it’s not Canada but Beijing that the U.S. has in its sights.
And with the country up in arms over what Chinese officials insist was a weather balloon that drifted through Canadian and U.S. airspace last week, downed over the weekend by U.S. jet fighters, the president has ample reason to argue for economic decoupling from China.
But it would be a mistake to assume that the U.S. will automatically turn to Canada for its energy, raw materials and manufactured goods, said Flavio Volpe, president of Canada’s Auto Parts Manufacturers Association.
“Canada will do well to not assume that we are inside the tent. We will have to prove and reprove ourselves on many points we take for granted,” Volpe said.
“Look for transactional language to begin dominating our relationship rather than ideology. Shared values matter, but sharing value matters more.”
Despite what the president may say publicly, however, the U.S. understands how important Canada is to its own economic fortunes, said Innovation Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, who will be in Washington later this week with Defence Minister Anita Anand.
“I think it is well understood … that in order for the United States to be resilient, Canada has to be part of the equation,” Champagne said in an interview.
“There’s a lot of opportunities ahead of us. And for me, the big question is how can we innovate more together, how can we do more together, and how can we sell more together to the rest of the world.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 7, 2023.
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