A language law came into force in Ukraine on January 16, requiring all national print media to be published in the country’s official language, Ukrainian, in a bid to curb the use of the Russian language in the public sphere.
The law, passed in 2019, does not prohibit publication in Russian but stipulates that a parallel Ukrainian version of equal scope and circulation must also be published. It is not seen as a profitable option for publishers in the declining print media market.
The transition – which comes amid escalating tensions between Ukraine and Russia – is based on a controversial 2019 language law that was passed just after former President Petro Poroshenko was removed from office.
Poroshenko signed it just before current President Volodymyr Zelenskiy took office and a transition period has been in place since then.
Proponents of the law say it will strengthen national identity. Critics say it could disenfranchise native Russian speakers in the country.
The law stipulates that from mid-May, news sites registered in Ukraine must offer at least an equivalent version of articles in the Ukrainian language. This requires the Ukrainian version to open first.
The Ukrainian language requirement will apply to regional media from July 2024. Radio and television have already been subject to strict Ukrainian language quotas for years.
Ukraine’s law on the state language, which came into force on July 16, declares Ukrainian to be “the only official state language” in the country.
Ukrainian is the mother tongue of approximately 67% of the approximately 43.5 million inhabitants of Ukraine, while Russian is the mother tongue of almost 30%. Russian is spoken mainly in urban areas. Almost 3% of the inhabitants of Ukraine are native speakers of other languages.