Wed, 18 May 2022

A language law came into force in Ukraine on January 16 that requires all national print media to be published in the country's official language, Ukrainian, in a bid to push back against the use of the Russian language in the public sphere.

The law, adopted in 2019, does not ban publication in Russian but stipulates that a parallel Ukrainian version of equal scope and circulation must be published, too. It's not considered a profitable option for publishers in the shrinking market for print media.

The transition -- which comes amid an escalation of tensions between Ukraine and Russia -- is based on a controversial language law from 2019 that was passed just after former President Petro Poroshenko was voted out of office.

Poroshenko signed it just before current President Volodymyr Zelenskiy took office and a transitional period has been in place since then.

Supporters of the law say it will strengthen national identity. Critics argue that it could disenfranchise the country's native Russian speakers.

The law stipulates that, starting in mid-May, news sites registered in Ukraine must at least offer an equivalent Ukrainian-language version of articles. It requires that the Ukrainian version must open first.

The Ukrainian language requirement will apply to regional media starting July 2024. Radio and television have already been under strict Ukrainian language quotas for years.

Ukraine's State Language Law, which went into effect on July 16, declares that Ukrainian is 'the only official state language' in the country.

Ukrainian is the native language of some 67 percent of Ukraine's almost 43.5 million population, while Russian is the native language of almost 30 percent. Russian is spoken mostly in urban areas. Almost 3 percent of Ukraine's inhabitants are native speakers of other languages.

Based on reporting by dpa, TASS, and RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Washington DC 20036

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