Kiev, Feb 3, (dpa/GNA) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has banned three opposition news channels with an unprecedented decree.
The ban provides for the revocation of broadcasting licenses, TV frequencies and the blocking of accounts for an initial period of five years, the president’s office announced early Wednesday.
Channels ZIK, NewsOne and 112 channels were immediately shut down in Kiev.
The president justified the move by alleging a threat to national security and dissemination of Russian propaganda.
In a joint statement, the channels called the ban a « reckoning with inconvenient media. »
The channels were considered in Ukraine to be the mouthpiece of the pro-Russian party « Opposition Platform for Life, » which is anchored in the east and south of the country.
According to two recent polls, the party, which has so far only been the second strongest, could expect to win the most votes in parliamentary elections.
The decree implemented a decision by the National Security Council, which is made up of lawmakers, and representatives of the judiciary and intelligence services alongside Zelensky.
So far, Ukraine has been considered relatively liberal in terms of press freedom, compared to other former Soviet republics.
The head of the Ukrainian Union of Journalists, Nikolay Tomilenko criticized the move which he called an « information bomb. »
« The deprivation of access to Ukrainian media for an audience of millions without a court … is an attack on freedom of expression, » he said.
Meanwhile, opposition lawmakers announced the beginning of impeachment proceedings against Zelensky.
However, the attempt is considered futile as the party only has 44 of the 226 seats it would need in parliament in order to initiate the proceedings.