Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych

Ukraine's president Viktor Yanukovych

Credit: By Pavol Frešo (flickr.com) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Protestors staged a demonstration as the president of Ukraine delivered his speech to the World Editors Forum in Kiev today.

A number of demonstrators, approximately 10-15 people, held up paper signs with press freedom related messages, such as 'stop censorship', as Viktor Yanukovych delivered his speech. At least one of the signs was taken from a protestor who used their laptop to display their message instead.

This came after WAN-IFRA president Jacob Mathew addressed the conference in a speech which called for press across the world to be freed from "shackles".

He also called for greater freedoms in the Ukraine, saying the country is at a "crossroads metaphorically", he said, "in matters concerning freedoms".

Mathew added that he is encouraged by the hosting of the event in Kiev and that WAN-IFRA was keen to "spend time in Kiev, understand the situation and show solidarity with the local independent media".

"Instead of turning our backs to the long-suffering media of Ukraine, we wanted to embrace this great country that we believe has the strength to re-assert itself and regain freedoms that sustain democracy and human dignity."

He also called on the government "to cooperate with the Ukrainian Association of Press Publishers and other media bodies", and offered the services of WAN-IFRA in helping to "monitor the situation".

In his speech (as reproduced in a WAN IFRA press release) President Yanukovych told delegates "there is a problem of inertia that law enforcement doesn’t react to some of the press’ complaints and claims about freedom of the press and independence of the media".

But he added: "I can assure you that we are working diligently to improve this situation".

"I can ensure you that the development of the freedom of speech and independent media will stay one of our main priorities going forward as it is very important for our future. And we want to partner with you to help to ensure this."

In closing he said he is "ready to co-operate" with the conference.

Responding to the demonstration WAN-IFRA spokesman Larry Kilman said: "One of the main focuses of these events is to defend and promote press freedom.

"By choosing Ukraine as our venue, we stand in solidarity with the local independent press, and draw international attention to the situation here. The protesters were a very powerful reminder that there is still much to be done."

WAN-IFRA produced a report on press freedom in Ukraine earlier this year, following a mission to the country in April.

WAN-IFRA president Mathew also used his opening address to the conference to call on newspapers across the world to "hold hands on reaching consensus on charging for content".

He said there is "no reason why we should give it away free or let others liberally help themselves to it".

"The fundamentals of newspaper journalism are strong and would be beneficial to all platforms," he added.

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