“All political parties in our country agree that the way forward is a completely open and democratic society, and freedom of speech and and independent media play a critical role today and in the future,” he says. “I can ensure 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.”
Mr Yanukovych admits that the issue of access to public information has been an ongoing problem. “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 I can assure you that we are working diligently to improve this situation,” he said, drawing a number of jeers from protesters. “
“We have set up a number of mechanisms to speed up the process of access to information, and we will continue to cut down on the time it takes to access this information, particularly in cases of possible corruption.”
However, he urges the press to do their due diligence as well in their reporting. “This is a two-way street in that the journalists should not politicise issues to their benefit. They should also ensure their responsibility to maintain objectiveness and no bias in their reports.”
Mr Yanukovych says the government started a number of reforms in 2010 to transform the country into a more favourable economic and business environment, taking a number of judiciary and legislative measures, but also similar measures for media.
“As you know, we had open, free and democratic elections then and we will do everything to ensure that in the future,” he said, again drawing jeers from protesters.
Mr Yanukovych said the government is taking a number of measures to create not only a more transparent media environment but also to enable media, particularly press, to thrive economically. “I have, for example, asked the government to set up better conditions where more sales points for newspapers can be opened and the rules relaxed to allow this to happen more easily and faster. But we encourage media owners themselves to work diligently as well to improve this situation and create a more competitive environment that is necessary.”
Mr Yanukovych’s speech was marked by a protest by a group of about 15 journalists who held up signs throughout his remarks that read, “Stop Censorship.”