Ukraine’s Parliament Adopts Broad Restriction On Public Protests

The Ukrainian Parliament has passed new laws that restrict free speech with regard to protests. It is believed this is a move to curb anti-government protests, especially criticism of President Viktor Yanukovich. Perhaps this is why the law was mainly backed almost exclusively by his supporters.

Since November, protests on the street have been taking place in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, as well as other cities. Originally, the impetus for these protests was Yanukovich’s refusal to sign a free trade agreement with the European Union in an attempt to bolster the country’s relationship with Russia. On January 12, 2014, at least 50,000 people demonstrated against Yanukovich in Kiev.

The new law still requires Yanukovich’s signature of approval. If he chooses to ratify it, which he undoubtedly will, the law will prohibit any unauthorized installation of tents, stages or amplifiers in public places, and impose a fine of up to $640 or up to 15 days in detention. People and organizations who provide facilities or equipment for protests will face a fine of up $1,275 or detention of up to 10 days. Politicians opposing Yanukovich routinely use a stage on the Maidan (central square) to broadcast supportive messages to the protesters. The law bans such actions, and in short, seems particularly targeted at Yanukovich’s opposition. Dissemination of “extremist” and libelous information has also been made illegal.

These restrictions seem overly severe when compared to the broad 1st Amendment rights that Americans enjoy. However, free speech and protesting in America is not without its own limits. The Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment is not absolute. The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that state and federal governments may place reasonable restrictions on the time, place, and manner of individual expression (TPM restrictions). These restrictions are justified because they accommodate public convenience, promote order by regulating traffic flow, preserve private property interests, and in general, protect order and peace. Pursuant to Ward v. Rock Against Racism, 491 U.S. 781 (1989), time, place, and manner restrictions must satisfy the following criteria: (1) be content neutral; (2) narrowly tailored; (3) serve a significant governmental interest; (4) leave open ample alternative channels for communication. In contrast to America’s regime, Ukraine’s new restrictions seem to lack any meaningful limiting principles, and appear to be politically charged and spiteful.

Is Ukraine’s new law a political ploy, or a needed regulation to maintain peace and order?

Photo Credit: ABC News

Sources:

Aljazeera

Reuters

2 comments

  1. This is definitely an attempted by the government and supporters of President Yanukovich. I would be worried about what is interpreted as extremism in this context. Would an extremist who shares Yanukovich’s views in public be subject to the law? Probably not, I assume. I agree with the author that this seems to be politically spiteful because he has faced some opposition in his decision making. This has led to this law that pushes the Ukraine back to the Soviet Bloc days without totally destroying the democracy they have built, but they are chipping away.
    Laws like these are a slippery slope. Politicians can control what information gets out and limit whether the public can hold them accountable by limiting the knowledge the people know about their government. This only serves elected officials and not the citizens they represent. Democracy needs to voice of the people to be heard and public protests are key to that happening. By creating a law that shuts down protests and demonstrations in public areas and punishes people who facilitate the demonstration by providing amps and such, the Ukraine is slowly chipping away at the foundation of their democracy with a law that aims to punish political views with no public interest purpose besides political gain.

  2. The lengths of the law have to be tested in court before making a determination that the law is a deliberate ploy to deprive their citizens of the ability to speak, and protest, freely. While many will assume the best of Ukraine, with their politicians seeking their constituents to exercise their rights in an orderly fashion, I believe that Ukraine is playing fast and hard with their citizens. They’re scared of social upheaval and change that their government elites have entrenched for so long. Without a doubt they are also getting pressure from Russia to keep a lid on this supposed “anarchy,” which shows that while the Cold War is over, Russia still maintains a great amount of influence over Eastern Europe. America should support freedom of speech in all contexts, despite its sorted past with Occupy Wall Street, and recommend to Ukraine to try and help their citizens out. With all the unrest in Ukraine, laws restricting their rights and what they believe they are entitled to will lead closer to revolution, and potentially civil war.

Leave a Reply to Edward Johannes Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.