Kyiv Post may be a russophobic rag ran by dangerously misguided people - but in opposing the initiative in Ukraine parliament to crack down on free speech they come out on the side of ethics
This article originally appeared at Kyiv Post
Parliament may soon enter dangerous territory if it decides to criminalize the public denial of military aggression that Ukraine is facing from Russia. Should the bill, co-authored by the buffoonish Radical Party leader Oleh Lyashko, be approved, the offender will receive up to five years in prison. A repeat offender will face 10 year in prison for denying the fact. The authors argue that this law will prevent the nation from breaking up and specifically targets local officials in Ukraine’s east who refuse to use the word “aggression” in describing Russia’s actions.
This infringement on freedom of speech is meant to stifle public discussion and lay the groundwork for political persecution and suppression of dissent.
Indeed, several European Union countries, such as Germany, France, and the Czech Republic, as well as Israel, criminally punish public denials of crimes against humanity, such as the Holocaust and other atrocities committed by the Nazi and communist regimes. Israel, the first country to pass such legislation, did it only in 1986, more than 40 years after the Nuremberg trials and painstaking documentation of crimes against Jews, including millions of victims and survivors of the Holocaust.
This brings us back to Ukraine, which doesn’t criminally punish those who deny the Holodomor, the Josef Stalin-ordered famine to starve millions of Ukrainians. Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk acknowledged this week that the investigation into EuroMaidan Revolution mass shootings is complicated because key documents have been destroyed. And while the authorities claim to be collecting evidence for a future Hague tribunal against Russia’s annexation of Crimea and instigation of the war in the Donbas, we are skeptical.
Instead of giving the country’s law enforcement a complete makeover and strengthening its capacity to investigate, the bill to ban free speech makes Ukraine look like Russia itself. In Russia-annexed Crimea, for example, public denial that Crimea is part of Russia is punishable by up to five years in prison.
Restrictions on free speech must be limited and done for compelling reasons. Simply denying reality, as many Kremlin bootlickers love to do in this current war, is boneheaded and wrong, but it is not a crime.