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01:33, 27 June 2017 Tuesday
Update: 16:09, 08 September 2012 Saturday

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Ukraine TV protests state pressure ahead of election
Ukraine TV protests state pressure ahead of election

TVi station, which is known for investigative journalism and which is often critical of the Yanukovich leadership and leading lights around him, was the subject of a raid by tax police last July.

World Bulletin/News Desk

Journalists at one of Ukraine's few independent TV stations rallied on Saturday, alleging that President Viktor Yanukovich's leadership was trying stealthily to silence independent media ahead of an October parliamentary election.

TVi station, which is known for investigative journalism and which is often critical of the Yanukovich leadership and leading lights around him, was the subject of a raid by tax police last July.

A tax evasion case against TVi's chief executive has since been dropped. But the station says local cable companies have come under pressure to either give it up or move it to more expensive packages, significantly cutting its viewer base.

Critics of the Yanukovich leadership see the moves against TVi as aimed at stifling potentially damaging reporting by the independent media before the Oct. 28 parliamentary election when his Party of the Regions will have to battle to keep its majority.

The government is unpopular because of tax and pension reform which has pushed back the retiring age and Yanukovich's party now faces a united opposition of several parties brought together by the prosecution and jailing of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

These critics say harassment of the independent media is part of a trend towards increased authoritarianism in the country since Yanukovich came to power in Feb. 2010.

"There are only a few TV stations left like TVi which has dared to provide balanced coverage of the situation in Ukraine," Yury Lukanov, head of the independent journalists' union, told Reuters on the fringe of a rally which drew about 1,500 people.

"The authorities don't like this. They prefer simple propaganda channels. That's why they are doing all they can to shut down this channel," he said.

Yanukovich last Monday told a World Newspaper Congress meeting in Kiev the alleged lack of media freedom in his country was due to ignorance and the lack of objective information about the real state of affairs in Ukraine.

His speech to the congress was interrupted by a dozen Ukrainian journalists who stood and held up anti-censorship banners. Security guards tore the banners out of protesters' hands.

"The goal of all honest journalists is to criticise the authorities. Only a journalist who tells you about the authorities' mistakes, their crimes, their wrong-doings - only this person can call himself an honest journalist," TVi editor-in-chief Vitaly Portnikov told the rally.

"When you destroy independent media you are punishing not just the opposition but civil society," he said.



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Cyprus president seeks peace deal in Switzerland
Cyprus president seeks peace deal in Switzerland

Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades said Monday he hopes to clinch a reunification deal laying out a new security blueprint for the divided island during a crunch summit in Switzerland this week. Anastasiades will attend United Nations-backed talks at the Alpine Crans-Montana ski resort Wednesday with "complete determination and goodwill... to achieve a desired solution", he said in a statement. He said he hopes to "abolish the anachronistic system of guarantees and intervention rights", with a deal providing for the withdrawal of the Turkish army. The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece. Turkey maintains around 35,000 troops in northern Cyprus. The so-called guarantor powers of Turkey, Britain and Greece retain the right to intervene militarily on the island. Greek and Turkish Cypriots are at odds over a new security blueprint, but their leaders are under pressure to reach an elusive peace deal. "I am going to Switzerland to participate in the Cyprus conference, with the sole aim and intent of solving the Cyprus problem," Anastasiades said. Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci is also set to attend the summit, which is expected to last at least 10 days. Greece, Turkey and Britain will send envoys along with an observer from the European Union. UN-led talks on the island hit a wall in late May after the sides failed to agree terms to advance toward a final summit. Unlocking the security question would allow Anastasiades and Akinci to make unprecedented concessions on core issues. But they have major differences on what a new security blueprint should look like. Anastasiades's internationally recognised government, backed by Athens, seeks an agreement to abolish intervention rights, with Turkish troops withdrawing from the island on a specific timeline. Turkish Cypriots and Ankara argue for some form of intervention rights and a reduced number of troops remaining in the north. Turkish Cypriots want the conference to focus on broader issues of power-sharing, property rights and territory for the creation of a new federation. Much of the progress to date has been based on strong personal rapport between Anastasiades and Akinci, leader of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. But that goodwill has appeared frayed in the build-up to their meeting in Switzerland. The Greek Cypriot presidential election next February has also complicated the landscape, as has the government's search for offshore oil and gas, which Ankara argues should be suspended until the negotiations have reached an outcome.