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Independent TV Channels Stripped of Frequencies

Ukraine -- Journalists watch the inauguration of President Viktor Yanukovych on a huge TV screen in the parliament building in Kyiv, 25Feb2010
A court has stripped two Ukrainian TV channels,
Channel 5 and TVi, of their new broadcast frequencies, RFE/RL's
Ukrainian Service reports.

The Kyiv district court this week annulled the January results of a tender held by
Ukraine's National Council on Television and Radio Broadcasting that allocated
those frequencies.

According to Ukrainian media experts, Channel 5 and TVi are among the few
Ukrainian TV channels that provide independent news coverage.

The move comes a day after the Editorial Board of Channel 5 sent an open letter
to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych asking him to intervene.

The board claimed that the court hearing was being influenced by Ukrainian
Security Service head Valery Khoroshkovsky.

Khoroshkovky owns the rival media holding company Inter Media Group, which has asked
for a new tender for frequencies.

Khoroshkovsky strongly denied exerting pressure on Channel 5 and demanded proof
of the allegations made by its editorial board.

"What kind of direct proof can one have, other than the fact that Khoroshkovsky
is one of the owners of Inter Media Group? He is the chief of the security
service, a member of the Higher Council of Justice. His wife is the manager of
Inter Media Group. Here you have double standards," Roman Skypin, a journalist
who heads Tvi's information service, said in an interview with RFE/RL.

Opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko has also weighed in on the dispute, saying the
petitioners never had any chance of success because of political interference:

"Now to count on the letter of journalists having an impact would be utopian
since it was Yanukovych who gave such orders. I am convinced that to address
the courts is utopian because today they function not according to the law and
the constitution, but under orders from one person, from Yanukovych."

Meanwhile, one of Inter Group's TV channels, Enter Music, branded the Channel 5
Editorial Board's open letter an attempt to exert pressure on the Ukrainian
justice system. When they speak of protecting "press freedom," what they mean
is their own interests and the aims of their owners, Enter Music
representatives said.

On June 8 the National Council on TV and Radio Broadcasting issued a statement
recommending that questions of press freedom, development of
media business, and adherence to the law be treated separately.

The composition of the Council has been changed since the January
tender. The new Council says that its decision to grant frequencies to
Channel 5 and TVi was adopted without a quorum and contrary to court rulings.

Natalya Lihachova, editor of, believes that today's court
decision does not mean that Channel 5 and TVi will cease to exist. It is likely that Channel 5
will retain the frequencies it has but not acquire new ones, while TVi will remain a satellite channel,
Lihachova told RFE/RL.

She believes that the dispute reflects efforts by the Ukrainian authorities to
increase their control over the country's media.

RFE/RL's O wire compiled this report.