Prez Facing Flak For Link To Libel Bill

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yanukovych came under pressure on Wednesday amid reports that he may be behind a controversial bill that introduces jail sentences for journalists disseminating ‘libelous’ information.

Viktor Yanukovych

The bill, which was approved by Parliament in the first reading on Tuesday, is seen by opposition groups and by journalist organizations as an open attack against the freedom of speech.

The bill was submitted by a Regions Party lawmaker, but a closer inspection of the draft shows one of its files was actually created in the presidential administration.

The file, under Properties category, contains STPU, an abbreviation that stands for the ‘Secretariat of the President of Ukraine’ and that is included by default in all computers at the administration.

The finding is embarrassing for the Yanukovych administration and undermines his earlier remarks that he stays away from influencing lawmakers in Parliament.

Furthermore, it reveals it’s the president, who has been already criticized for jailing opposition leaders, who now has been seeking to punish journalists that had been frequently exposing alleged corruption in his government.

The presidential administration responded to the reports by trying to shield the president from the bill.

It said it had checked all computers and other document folders and had never found the file in question among them.

“The checkup showed the [document] file is absent in all records,” the presidential administration said in a statement.

“The document is also absent at the computer server at the administration.” Vitaliy Zhuravskiy, a lawmaker who officially submitted the bill to Parliament, had also ruled out the president’s involvement with the bill.

“Not a single state institution, let alone the president of Ukraine, has anything to do with my bill,” Zhuravskiy said in a statement issued by the Regions Party.

“This is my initiative because these are my beliefs.”

When later in the day Zhuravskiy was asked to explain the abbreviation STPU on one of the files, he said he may have stopped by the presidential administration and used one of its computers to edit the file he had on his flash drive. 

I used the computer to edit this file on the flash drive,” Zhuravskiy said.

The explanation, however, does not hold water.

A file that was created someplace else and only edited on a computer at the presidential administration would not change its Properties information.

“The STPU abbreviation would only appear in a file that has been created on the computer at the presidential administration,” Ukrayinska Pravda reported.

Source: Ukrainian Journal