Ukrainian based NGO, Human Rights Platform (HRP) is one of Media Defence’s newest partners. HRP’s Programme Director, Oleksandra Stepanova, tells us more about the organisation, the human rights challenges in Ukraine and how they are tackling them.
“In the future, we hope to be a pan-Ukrainian expert community represented in each region of Ukraine”
HRP was founded by like-minded people who had significant experience in the non-governmental sector. One day we realized that we needed to come together to produce creative, effective and useful ideas to advance the human rights standards in our country. So we created a brand in-line with this idea.
The main resource of HRP is its people, in particular, the sincere and responsible professionals devoted to the idea of human rights. There were five founding members who formed HRP and they were the original staff in 2016 when it was founded. In 2017, after starting to implement our first project, five more experts joined the organisation.
Although our main office is in Kiev, we are growing quickly and in earlier this year we launched a regional office in Kherson (southern Ukraine) and we are considering another two requests to launch regional offices in Chernigiv and Ivano-Frankivsk. In the future, we hope to be a pan-Ukrainian expert community represented in each region of Ukraine.
“At HRP we place great emphasis on the protection of freedom of speech as one of the fundamental and essential human rights”
The underlying causes which lead to violations of human rights in Ukraine include a misunderstanding of the general concept of human rights by many, including Ukrainian authorities; a government which gives more priority to national security issues than to issues of human rights because of the war in the east Ukraine; weak and ineffective reforms in the main spheres of society such as the courts, law enforcement agencies, medicine, education; and pervasive corruption.
In terms of freedom of expression and the protection of journalists, the key issues are physical violence and attacks on journalists (our National Journalist Union documented over 50 attacks in the first nine months of the year). Civil defamation is used very commonly against journalists and there are ongoing attempts to re-criminalise this; the use of national security measures, especially during the ongoing war with Russia and a lack of transparency and systemic barriers restricting access to information. Online harassment of journalists is also becoming increasingly common.
At HRP we place great emphasis on the protection of freedom of speech as one of the fundamental and essential human rights, the implementation of which should be provided with diverse discussions in society to find the best solutions of existing problems. We implement activities in the field of access to public information: from carrying out monitoring research of official websites of authorities to representing interests of journalists whose requests for public information are rejected, in courts.
We also stand up for the rights and freedoms in the areas I mentioned previously at all stages and levels: while drafting bills, law enforcement practices, and, in cases where all opportunities are exhausted in Ukraine – at the European Court of Human Rights.
Furthermore, we take an active part in introducing reforms in the field of human rights in particular. Our experts are currently involved in various projects on denationalization of state and municipal media as well as projects aimed at solving problems of physical attacks on journalists. We provide professional legal assistance but also are prepare innovations in Ukrainian legislation and educational activities directed at uprooting the problems.
We are also a member of the biggest Ukrainian expert coalition of non-governmental organizations and take part in two expert groups that work on election legislation, freedom of speech and access to information. Finding the balance between freedom of expression, digital rights and national security, territorial integrity as well as sovereignty is also a key point of discussion and consideration for us.
We believe that educational activities are also very important, people should know their rights and how to protect them so we look for opportunities to cooperate with the Ministry of Education of Ukraine to introduce basic human rights in educational system of universities.
“We are very committed to addressing the wide range of human rights violations in Ukraine”
We have a really strong network of lawyers that covers all regions of Ukraine, this helps to provide legal assistance to journalists and media promptly and efficiently. Moreover, we are not limited by set activities and we are open for cooperation with all people who are not indifferent to the problems arising in the human rights sphere. We are very committed to addressing the wide range of human rights violations in Ukraine.
“Unfortunately, there is no doubt that problems will continue to exist in the foreseeable future, and they will be deep and systemic”
We want to build a horizontal, large and strong platform that will be transparent, democratic and effective, serving different target groups and Ukrainian society as a whole.
As I mentioned before, in the future we see HRP as the pan-Ukrainian expert organisation, which will solve practical problems and provide quality legal and other assistance to protect human rights. Unfortunately, there is no doubt that problems will continue to exist in the foreseeable future, and they will be deep and systemic.
At this stage of our development, we are interested in both methodological and mentoring representative assistance in the search for partners and donors. And of course, financial assistance is vital for us.
We are also very interested in the connection between internet, technology and human rights and are hoping to do more in this area in the near future. We have two projects in mind currently. Firstly, to construct modules for a unique online platform to a communicational hub that collates information on the implementation of the right to access public information. More than 300 publications – journalistic investigations, articles and blogs – have been already prepared and published on the web-portal.
The second is project “RoBOTS for Human rights” which aims at providing quick access to high-quality legal advice in cases of human rights violations by developing chatbots which will provide information using open data on issues such as media defence; election laws; citizens defence; internet governance and cyber security; rights of the sentenced and access to public information. This will be useful especially for those in remote regions of Ukraine.
“Global economic processes, technological development and military conflicts generate new and complex challenges in the field of human rights that are real for every country in the world”
We would like to emphasise that we are an open-minded organisation and would welcome collaboration will all who are not indifferent to problems in the human rights sphere, in particular freedom of speech. Global economic processes, technological development and military conflicts generate new and complex challenges in the field of human rights that are real for every country in the world and we seek more cooperation with like-minded organisations and individuals.
MLDI is working with Human Rights Platform to deliver a project titled ‘Effective Legal Defence of Freedom of Speech in Ukraine’ The project will provide legal defence in 25 cases concerning freedom of expression violations and 25 legal consultations to journalists, bloggers and media outlets in need of legal advice and support. The project focused on journalists physically attacked in the line of duty, defamation cases and strategic access to information cases.
MLDI is excited to continue working with HRP over the next year and beyond. If you would like to get in touch with Human Rights Platform, you can visit their website http://www.ppl.org.ua/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
MLDI provides legal support to journalists, bloggers and independent media around the world. One of MLDI’s key ways of working is by supporting partner organisations to provide legal defence in their countries, making best use of country specific knowledge and ‘on the ground’ networks. For information about MLDI’s media defence grants: Our Funded Partners.
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