Ukrainian far-right group wins defamation suit after being labeled neo-Nazi

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Ukrainian far-right group wins defamation suit after being labeled neo-Nazi

Concern after a Kiev judge ordered online site Hromadske to pay the C14 group £113 and publicise the ruling

Monument of Independence in Kiev. (Wikipedia/Tiia Monto)
Monument of Independence in Kiev. (Wikipedia/Tiia Monto)

A far-right nationalist movement won a defamation lawsuit against a Ukrainian media outlet that had described it as “neo-Nazi,” sparking worries over the integrity of freedom of speech in the post-communist state.

A Kiev judge ordered the online outlet Hromadske to pay the C14 group £113 ($137) and publicise the ruling, which the news organisation’s attorney called “mistaken and illegal, according to The Kyiv Post.

C14 is an extremist group that spun off from the antisemitic Svoboda party whose leader, Yevhen Karas, has listed Russians, Jews and Poles as enemies. C14 denies that it is a neo-Nazi organisation, though its social media accounts have heavily featured white nationalist and Nazi symbolism. Its members also were involved in a series of attacks, described by some as pogroms, against members of Ukraine’s Roma minority.

“Other organisations such as Reuters and the Washington Post, along with government bodies, such as the UK Parliament, have referred to C14 in a similar manner,” Hromadske reported in an article about its case. “Human rights organisations, such as the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, have referred to C14 as ‘Neo-Nazi,’ too.”

Harlem Désir, the organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s representative on freedom of the media, said he was “concerned” about the ruling, as it “goes against #mediafreedom and could discourage journalistic work.”

Meanwhile, journalist Michael Colborne, an expert on the Ukrainian far right, tweeted: “Odd that the neo-Nazis from C14 won’t try and sue me or any of the other outlets I’ve called them neo-Nazis in, or this tweet right now calling them neo-Nazis, or the article I’m writing right now where I’ll be calling them neo-Nazis, again.”

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