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A court has stripped two Ukrainian TV channels -- Channel 5 and TVi -- of their new broadcast frequencies, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

The Kyiv district court today annulled the January results of a tender held by Ukraine's National Council on Television and Radio Broadcasting that allocated those frequencies.

According to Ukrainian media experts, Channel 5 and TVi are among the few Ukrainian TV channels that provide independent news coverage.

The move comes a day after the Editorial Board of Channel 5 sent an open letter to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych asking him to intervene.

The board claimed that the court hearing was being influenced by Ukrainian Security Service head Valery Khoroshkovsky.

Khoroshkovky owns the rival media holding Inter Media Group, which has asked for a new tender for frequencies.

Khoroshkovsky strongly denied exerting pressure on Channel 5 and demanded proof of the allegations made by its editorial board.

"What kind of direct proof one can have, other than the fact that Khoroshkovsky is one of the owners of Inter Media Group? He is the chief of the security service, a member of the Higher Council of Justice. His wife is the manager of Inter Media Group. Here you have double standards," Roman Skypin, a journalist who heads TVi's information service, said in an interview with RFE/RL.

Opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko also weighed in today, saying the petitioners never had any chance of success because of political interference:

"Now to count on the letter of journalists having an impact would be utopian since it was Yanukovych who gave such orders," Tymoshenko said. "I am convinced that to address the courts is utopian because today they function not according to the law and the constitution, but under orders from one person, from Yanukovych."

Meanwhile, one of Inter Group's TV channels, Enter Music, branded the Channel 5 editorial board's open letter an attempt to exert pressure on the Ukrainian justice system. When they speak of protecting "press freedom," what they mean is their own interests and the aims of their owners, Enter Music representatives said.

Today the National Council on TV and Radio Broadcasting issued a statement calling for treating separately the questions of press freedom, development of media business, and adherence to the law.

The composition of the council has been changed since its controversial January ruling.

Now the council notes that its previous decision to grant new frequencies to Channel 5 and TVi was adopted without a quorum and contrary to court rulings.

Natalya Lihachova, editor of Telekritika.kiev.ua, believes that today's court decision does not mean that Channel 5 and TVi will cease to exist. It is likely that Channel 5 will retain the frequencies it has but not acquire new ones, while TVi will remain a satellite channel, Lihachova said in
interview with RFE/RL.

She believes that the dispute reflects efforts by the Ukrainian authorities to increase their control over the country's media.
Farzana, the newly elected chairperson of the Shemale Rights Foundation of Pakhtunkhwa (photo by Mujeeb Sial)
The head of a new group representing Pakistani transvestites, transsexuals, and eunuchs is demanding greater rights protection for the community, RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal reports.

Farzana, known by one name, is the newly elected chairperson of the Shemale Rights Foundation of Pakhtunkhwa, the first formal organization of its kind in the area formerly known as North West Frontier Province.

Farzana said people view members of her community -- known in Pakistan by the catch-all term "hijra" -- with disgust and don’t consider them normal human beings.

"There is a long history of discrimination against us. We are a laughing-stock for people and they make fun of us. Police officials most often forcefully arrest our community members and take them to the police station," Farzana told RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal. "They arrest us for nothing and there is no one to speak for us. Now we ourselves will fight for our rights."

"Our families have deserted us, because in their view we give our relatives a bad name. Is it our fault if nature has created us in this form?" Farzana added.

Farzana's group announced its formation in the provincial capital Peshawar on June 7. It has the aim of demanding greater rights protection and putting an end to the discrimination they confront in the conservative region.

No reliable data exist, but Farzana said an estimated 10,000 hijras live in the region.

Last week, hijras protested in Peshawar about what they called the heavy-handedness of police.

In 2009, Pakistan’s Supreme Court ordered the government to allow hijras to identify themselves as a distinct gender on their national identity cards.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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